SEVEN LITTLE PEOPLE AND THEIR FRIENDS
HORACE E. SCUDDER
Boston and New York Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by Horace E. Scudder in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
The Seven Little People who have lived with me for the last two or three years, and with whom I have been wont to entertain my friends among the children, are now about to leave their quiet home and make their appearance in society. The experience which they severally have enjoyed, whether under the sea or in Percanian palaces, or on desert islands, or upon birth-nights, has perhaps hardly fitted them for associating with the world's people; and yet, I trust, they will find some glad to receive them, and hear them tell of the friends whom they found in their various wanderings. It is true that two of these Little People have no friends at all, but then it was their own choice, for did they not deliberately cast themselves away, and abjure all society but that of their mute companion? It will be found also that in one of these Stories there are no Little People, but it is no more than just that the Friends should for once be allowed their drama to themselves. All of these Seven are the children of my brain, and I am somewhat loth to let them go so far from me; but if they find no hospitable fireside to receive them, they will at least always be welcome at mine.
THE THREE WISHES WISH THE FIRST—Under the Sea 11 WISH THE SECOND—On the Mountain 37 WISH THE THIRD AND LAST—In the Cottage 49
A CHRISTMAS STOCKING WITH A HOLE IN IT I. The Stocking is Hung 57 II. Midnight 71 III. Kleiner Traum Visits Peter Mit 79 IV. Kleiner Traum Visits David Morgridge 88 V. Morgridge Klaus 92
THE LITTLE CASTAWAYS 99
A FAERY SURPRISE PARTY 133
THE ROCK ELEPHANT 149
THE OLD BROWN COAT I. The Gift 175 II. The Sacrifice 199
NEW YEAR'S DAY IN THE GARDEN 219
THE THREE WISHES
Wish the First.—Under the Sea.
Little Effie Gilder's porridge did taste good! and so it ought; for beside that Mother Gilder made it, and Mother Gilder's porridge was always just right, Effie was eating it on her seat upon the sea-shore in front of her father's house. The sun was just going down and the tide was rising, so that the little waves came tumbling up on the beach, as if they were racing, each one falling headlong on the sand in the scramble to get there first; and then slipping back again, there would be left a long streak of white foam just out of reach of Effie. She was sitting on what she called her chair, but it was a chair without legs or back or arms—only a great flat stone, where she used to come every sunshiny afternoon and eat her bowl of porridge.
It was smoking-hot—that porridge! and she was eating away with a great relish, holding the bowl in her lap and drumming upon it with her drumstick of a spoon. I wish you could have seen her as she sat there, with her hat falling off and the sun touching her hair and turning the rich auburn into a golden colour. But somebody did see her; for just before the sun went down, Effie spied an old man coming along the beach to the place where she sat. "That must be Uncle Ralph," thought she, "coming home from fishing." "No," she said; as he came nearer, "it isn't, it's Granther Allen." "Why no! it isn't Granther; who can it be? what a queer old man!"
By this time the old man had come quite near. He was a very old man. His hair was long and as white as snow; he was so bent over that as he leaned upon his smooth stout cane, his head almost touched the knob on the top of it; and it kept wagging sidewise, as if he were saying "No" all the time. He had on a long grey coat almost the colour of his hair, and it reached down to his feet on which was a pair of shoes so covered with dust that they were of the same colour as his coat; and his hat was the oddest of all! it was very high and peaked, and looked as if it had been rubbed in the flour barrel before he put it on.
This old man came up toward Effie very slowly, his head shaking all the time and his feet dragging one after the other as if he could hardly reach her. Effie began to be frightened, but when he spoke to her it was with such a sweet musical voice that she thought she had never heard anything half so beautiful.
"My little child," said he, "I am very tired; I have come a long way to-day and have had nothing to eat since morning. Will you give me some of your porridge that looks so nice?"
"Oh yes! sir," said Effie, jumping up and giving him the bowl. "But there isn't much left. Won t you come into the house and mother will give you some bread."
"Oh, no! my little girl," said the old man. "I do not need anything more than this porridge to make me strong again;" and as he spoke, he raised himself up and stood as straight as his own smooth stick that his hand hardly rested on; and his head stopped wagging, and he stood there a tall old man with a beautiful face and such a beautiful voice as he asked again:
"What is your name, my little girl?"
"Effie Gilder, sir. And this is my birth-day; I'm six years old to-day."
"Six years old to-day! and what shall I give you, little Effie, on this your birth-day? I love all good little children, and you were good to me to give me your porridge. Little Effie, I am going to let you wish three things, but you may only wish one thing at a time. One thing to-day, and another when your next birth-day comes, and the last when the birth-day after that comes. Now tell me what you wish most of all."
Effie looked at him in wonder. "What! really? have any thing she wanted for the asking?"
"Yes," said the old man; "but you must ask it before the sun goes down."
Effie looked at the sun; it had nearly touched the water and looked like a great red ball, and she thought it would go down, clear, into the water, as she had so often seen it, without any clouds around it.
"I wish,—" said she, "let me see what I wish! oh, I wish that I might go down to the bottom of the ocean and see all the beautiful shells and the fishes, and every thing that's going on down there!" When she said it, the little waves laughed as they came scampering up to her, as if they said—"What a droll idea!"
"You shall go," said the old man, "before many more suns have set. And next year when your birth-day comes round, I will come again for your second wish. Farewell, my little child."
Effie looked at him, and lo! he was quite bent over again, and his head was shaking harder than ever, as if he said "No, no, no," all the while; then she looked at the sun to see it go down, clear, into the water, but about it were clouds of gold and crimson, and the sun just peeped out behind them, as behind bars, for a moment, and then went down covered by the clouds into the black waters; and in a moment or two, as she stood watching, the beautiful clouds were grey and sombre and spread in a long, low line along the horizon.
"Effie! Effie! come into the house!" she heard her mother calling; and there was Mrs. Gilder, standing in the door-way with her gown tucked up around her, and an apron on, which was the most wonderful apron for pockets you ever saw! I should not dare to say how many pockets it had, for fear you would not believe me, but if you had seen how many things she kept in them, you would think with me, that there never was such a wonderful apron.
"Come here, Effie," said she, and diving into one of her apron pockets she pulled out a little parcel. "See what I've brought you from the village for a birth-day present;" and she unrolled the paper and showed her a little candy dog; his body was white, striped blue and red, and his short tail stood straight up, which was more than the little dog could do, for when he was put on the table, instead of standing on his four legs like respectable dogs, he fell over on his side. Effie took the dog, but did not seem half so glad to get it as her mother thought she would, and even forgot to thank her for it.
"Oh, mother!" said she, "did you see that real old man just now, with such long white hair, and a white coat that came way down to his heels, and his head went just so"—shaking her own, "and oh! he told me I might have any thing I wanted, and I said I wanted to go down to the bottom of the ocean, and he said I should, and he's coming again on my next birth-day, and I am to wish for something again. Do you think he really can take me to the bottom of the sea?"
"Nonsense! child. It's some old crazy man. I wonder you didn't run away from him. Come into the house, it's time for you to go to bed. And bring your dog along with you. You mustn't eat it. It's only to play with."
"I hate that nasty little dog!" said Effie, and her pretty face became twisted into a pucker, "and I don't want to go to bed."
"Tut, tut! Puss," said Father Gilder, who was smoking his pipe by the fire. "What! naughty on your birth-day? I thought you were going to be good always after this. I guess she's tired, mother."
Effie's pouting was crying by this time, and Mother Gilder brought a handkerchief out of another of her pockets, and wiping the child's face, led her to her little cot and put her to bed with the little dog where she could see it when she woke up, lying stiff on his side with his tail straight up in the air.
Father Gilder shook his head. "'T won't do, mother," said he, "we can't have little Effie a cross child. Bless me! why, my pipe's out! where's some tobacco?"
"Here," said Mrs. Gilder, plunging her hand into another of her wonderful apron's pockets and fishing out some tobacco, and then diving into another for matches, filling and lighting her old man's pipe. They looked at the little child lying in her crib, and thought now they would do any thing in the world to make her happy and good. She was fast asleep now, and her little face had become untied—for you know it was in a knot when she lay down—and now she was smiling in her sleep. Perhaps she was dreaming about the old man with the beautiful voice, and thinking she saw him again.
The next day, Effie was playing on the beach, picking up the shells and making little holes in the sand, watching to see the water come up and fill them, when she remembered the old man she had seen the day before, and she said to herself, "I wish he would come and take me down to the bottom of the ocean!" when, lo! just as she had wished it, the queerest little man came walking out of the water to where she stood. He was the funniest looking little man, I'll be bound, you ever saw. He was not more than three feet high, and he had a hump-back—so humped that it looked almost like a wide horn coming out of his back. And he was dressed entirely in green; just as green as sea-weed, and to tell the truth, his clothes were made of sea-weed when you came to look at them closely; all woven of green sea-weed, and on the hump, his coat, which was made to fit it, was stuffed with soft sea grass so that it looked like a cushion. His feet were great flat feet, and his hands were almost as large as his feet; and as for his legs, they were so crooked and so covered with barnacles, that you never would have known them for legs anywhere else. He had on a cap made of seal-skin with two ends bobbing behind.
He came right out of the water and stood before Effie, dripping with wet, and bowing, and smiling, and scraping and twitching his cap, as much as to say, "Your most obedient servant, Miss, and what can I do for you this morning?" and he did say out aloud, "It's all right! Get up there"—pointing to his hump—"and I will carry you down safely, little maiden!"
"But I shall get wet!" laughed Effie.
"Oh, no!" said he, "I'll cover you up." So he stooped down, but he didn't have very far to stoop, he was so short; and she got on top of the hump and held on by the ends of the seal-skin cap that were dangling behind. The little man put his hands in his pockets and pulled out bunches of sea-weed and covered her up with it, and tied her on with long string of sea-grass, until she was quite safe, and then waded straight into the water.
The beach sloped quickly and the little man was short, so that in a few strides the water was up to the hump on which Effie was sitting. Then the little girl began to be frightened and shut her eyes tight, and when she heard the water splashing about them, she wanted to cry out, but she couldn't and held on tight to the bobs of the seal-skin cap. Then she felt the water rushing over their heads, but still the little sea-green man went striding over the ground, putting out his flat hands at his side, as if they were oars, and seeming to push the water away as he went swiftly forward. At first Effie could hear the water overhead, tumbling and rolling about and rising up and down; then it became quieter, and finally it was perfectly still, except when some fish would dart by them, just grazing the hump and disturbing the water a little.
Now, when every thing was so quiet, she began slowly to raise her eyelids a little, until she had her eyes wide open and was staring about her. She seemed to be looking through green glass, and could not see very distinctly, but every once in a while some dim fish would move beside her; and as her eyes got more used to the place, all things became clearer, and soon she saw that on both sides of her and behind, there was a multitude of fishes of all sizes. They swam beside her, the older and bigger ones moving very sedately, and keeping the same order; but the little frisky fishes would tumble around in great glee, and come darting up to Effie, putting their cold noses up to her face and then go racing back, giggling and whipping their tails about in a fine frolic; and the awkward, bungling, good-natured dolphins, would come tumbling in among the steady fishes and make the greatest commotion, almost upsetting little Effie two or three times, and then go bouncing off, shaking their fat sides with laughter. There was an old sword-fish, that seemed to be a kind of special constable, who kept going round and round, pricking the dolphins whenever he got a chance and frightening the little fishes almost out of their senses; as often as he made his appearance, with that long sword of his sticking out, such a scampering as there would be! and how the wee fishes would try to hide behind the dolphins, and how the dolphins would slap them with their fins, and go rolling in among the steady fishes, as if they were the most quiet, well-disposed, respectable fishes that ever were. Oh! how they frolicked and tumbled about the little sea-green man with Effie on his back! Effie shouted and clapped her hands in great glee, and tried to hop up and down on the little man's hump, but she was so tied down that she couldn't, so she kept digging her toes into his back, and twitching the bobs of the seal-skin cap, till he got going at a terrible pace, so fast that it was as much as the fishes and dolphins could do to keep up with him, without playing by the way!
Now, after they had gone what seemed to Effie a great way, every thing became clearer, and the little man shortened his pace and began arranging his cap, which Effie had pulled out of shape, and smoothing down his sea-weed clothes; the fishes all went slowly along in their regular places, only the little fishes behind would teaze the dolphins, and the sword-fish looked as stately as the old fellow could, and gave some serious digs at the dolphins whenever they showed signs of being unruly; and lastly, two or three flying-fish shot off in advance of the rest, and the procession moved slowly on.
"What is coming, I wonder!" thought Effie. Then she looked all about her and over the little man's shoulder to see what was in front; and away off in the distance she saw the dim outline of something that looked like a gate-way. And as they came nearer, sure enough it was a gate-way, and when they came up to it she saw the pillars, made of beautiful white coral, and the gate itself made of a whale's skin, polished and studded with shark's teeth as white as ivory. The little man stopped before the gate, which was shut, and the sword-fish came forward in the most pompous manner, and knocked with his sword upon the coral posts.
"Who comes here?" asked a voice within. "I demand it in the name of the Queen of the Ocean Deeps."
"I come," said the little sea-green man, "I, the servant of the Queen of the Ocean Deeps bearing with me the earth-born child. I crave admittance in the name of the Queen."
At that the gates swung open and the procession moved in. Once through the gate-way, where sat the porter—a hermit crab—the road, paved with lovely shells, wound about, and Effie held her breath to see how beautiful it was. They moved along the shining floor, and by-and-by they came to another gate, more beautiful than the first, where they went through the same form, only the porter within, just before he swung open the doors, said:
"Enter, servant of the Queen of the Ocean Deeps, bearing the earth-born child, and ye his attendants, but let no one enter who does not the bidding of our good-loving Queen." As each one passed in, the porter said:
"When thou comest through this gate, Leave behind thee sinful hate. He that can not—let him wait."
And each one answered, else the porter would not have let him in,
"There is no thing in all the sea, That I or hate or hateth me. I only hate the sin I flee."
When it came to the little fishes' turn, the old constable sword-fish looked sharply at them, but they answered like the rest in a demure way, with a side wink at the dolphins; those lubberly fellows blundered through somehow, and looked sheepish enough at saying it so poorly. Last of all came the sword-fish, who seemed to feel hurt that he should be asked the same question, and gruffly answered, whereupon the gate was shut and they all passed along.
Then they came in sight of the palace of the Queen. What a sight that was! The walls were of pure coral, and all about the doors and windows were shells of every variety of colour and form. There were arches and pillars set around with shells, and in the corners grew graceful sea-weed, that clung to the palace and waved to and fro its long, soft leaves. Little Effie looked up and saw that the building was not finished, and that all around her there was a continual hum of movement. Then they entered the door of the palace and passed through long galleries, until they came to a great and beautiful door and heard within voices singing. A porter sat behind this door also, and asked the same questions, and they all answered as before, in one voice, only they spoke more softly. Now they stood in the great hall of the palace, and lo! there was the Queen herself, sitting on her throne, and about her were her maids of honour. It was they who had been singing, but who stopped when the procession came in. They were sitting at wheels and long stone looms, spinning and weaving wondrous robes of purple and scarlet and green; the Queen herself was weaving a gorgeous garment of all the most beautiful colours.
The little man stopped in front of the Queen and made three of his comical little bows, and all the attendant fishes bobbed their heads up and down; the dolphins gave some awkward, bungling shakes of the whole body that made the little fishes almost burst into laughing, and the old fellow with a sword looked exceedingly serious and made the most dignified bow imaginable. Then the Queen spoke:
"My faithful servant, hast thou obeyed my commands and brought the child of earth?"
"She is here, my good-loving Queen," said he. "What is thy will with her?" When little Effie heard this, she began to be frightened and to think—"Oh, dear! what is she going to do with me?" but the Queen looked so good that she felt at ease again and listened for what she would say.
"Take the child," said she, "and show her the beauties of my palace, and let her see the wonderful works that are done here; answer all her questions and bring her back to me again." Then they all bowed again. And as they moved away, Effie heard the song that the maidens at the wheels and looms sang.
The Song of the Sea-Maidens.
Spin, maidens, spin! let the wheel go round! Hours that once are lost can never more be found. (Chorus) Work, hands! Love, heart! Every one here has his part,—— Has his work to do,—has his love to give, Thus we work, thus we love ever while we live.
Weave, maidens, weave! let the shuttle fly! Time and we are racing; faster, faster ply!
(Chorus) Work, hands! Love, heart! etc.
Sing, maidens, sing! as ye spin and weave, Work was never meant our joyous hearts to grieve,
(Chorus) Work, hands! Love, heart! etc.
As the wheel goes round—as the shuttle flies, Let your songs and hearts upward, upward rise!
(Chorus) Work, hands! Love, heart! Every one here has his part, etc.
They passed out of the hall, and the little sea green man said, "To the Top!" So they came to the top of the house, and there they saw hundreds and thousands of little coral insects, working to make the house more beautiful, and each, when he had done all that he could, lay down and died. And the little man told Effie how all this beautiful palace had been made by these insects and how it never would stop growing, but always some coral insect would be doing his tiny work, and when he had done all he could, would die.
"What is that humming?" asked Effie.
"That is the song they sing as they work," said he. "Listen! do you not hear it?" Effie listened hard and just caught a few words of the chorus.
"Every one here has his part—— Has his work to do, has his love to give,—— Thus we work, thus we love ever while we live."
"Why, that is what the maidens who were spinning sang," said she.
"Yes," said he, "they all sing the same song to different music." Then she began to hear the words all about her, and she found that the little sea green man, and the fishes, small and great, and the dolphins and the old constable sword fish were all singing the same song, each in his own way. So they went down again and through the whole palace and saw the shells, some of them indeed making pearls, but all singing the same song, and the sponges that were growing and the branches of coraline that one by one loosened themselves and floated upward, singing as they rose all about her, from corals and shells and grasses and sponges and fishes, came this one song, each singing it to his own air, yet the whole melody rising and sinking in a single harmonious strain.
Effie looked on at every thing in wonder, and at last they came back to the Queen's presence. She, too, was singing with her maidens; but when the procession came in again, and went through their bows once more, she said to the little sea-green man—and their voices were all hushed:
"My faithful servant, have you shown the little maiden all the wonders of the palace?"
"Yea, my good-loving Queen."
"And do they all spend their lives in good-working, singing as they work?"
"Yea, my good-loving Queen, all;" and the hum of the song rose all about her.
"Then back again lead the little child, and carry her to her home on earth, that she too may live and work and sing. For
Every one there has his part: Has his work to do, has his love to give,"—
And all the voices sang with her
"Thus we work, thus we love ever while we live."
Then the procession moved out again, and Effie clung still to the little man's seal-skin cap, as she sat on her cushion of sea-weed, upon the hump on his back; and he marched along, using his flat hands like oars, while the gruff old constable with his sword, and the dolphins and the fishes, great and small, moved beside the pair, and they all went swiftly up from the light to the darker green, the voices growing fainter to Effie, and their forms more indistinct.
The little sea-green man brought Effie out of the water, and set her down on the beach, and then, making his profoundest bow, he walked off to the water again, the ends of his seal-skin cap dangling and bobbing behind. Effie watched him go under the water, and then walked up into the house. There was her mother frying some fish which Father Gilder had just brought home for supper, while he was chopping wood at the side of the house. It was not a bit like the beautiful palace she had seen, with the Queen of the Ocean Deeps, and her maidens about her, weaving and singing songs. Effie wished the little sea-green man had never brought her up again, but had let her always live in such a beautiful place.
"What's the matter, Effie?" asked her mother, looking up from the frying-pan, and seeing Effie stand there, staring into the fire.
"Oh, mother!" said she, "I have seen such beautiful things!"
"Oh, way down under the water! Such a funny little man, all dressed in sea-weed, took me down on his back, and—"
"Nonsense, Effie! don't come to me with such stories. Go and wash your face and hands, and get yourself ready for supper."
"But really! mother,—"
"Sh! child; do as I tell you, and don't talk to me about your going down underneath the water; you'd ha' been wet through if you had."
"But he covered me all up with sea-weed."
"Poh! you've been asleep on the rock, and dreaming about it; it's a wonder you didn't fall off into the water. Come! run and wash yourself. Supper's most ready."
Effie went off pouting; and Mother Gilder took the frying-pan off the fire with the fish sizzling and smoking hot. "Come, father!" said she, "and Effie, hurry up! supper's on the table."
"Where's your little dog, Effie?" said her father. Effie didn't speak.
"Have you eat him up, eh?" Never a word from Effie.
"The child is naughty!" said her mother, "Effie, speak to your father!" But Effie looked crosser than ever.
"Well, you shall go to bed without your supper," said Mrs. Gilder, getting up, "if you're going to behave so. The little thing's been telling some ridiculous story about a man's taking her down under the water on his back!"
"He did take me down!" cried Effie, "and I wish I'd stayed there! erhn! erhn! erhn!" and she cried and cried.
"Soh, soh, little one," said Father Gilder, "you wouldn't want to leave your old father and mother, would you, Effie?"
"N-n-n-no, b-b-but m-m-mother said I didn't go."
"Ah, well! eat your supper, Effie, and then come and tell me all about it." So Effie ate her supper and then sat in her father's lap, and began to tell him all that I have told you; but before she had gone a great way, she was so sleepy that she couldn't tell any thing more, but kept saying, "And—and—and—a-n-d—a-n-d," till she fell fast asleep, and Mother Gilder put her to bed, and she did not wake up once more till the next morning.
"Well, what d'ye think, old man, about this stuff?" asked Mrs. Gilder, when Effie was snug in bed.
"Well, I don't know," said Mr. Gilder. "Its queer! its queer! I guess the child's been dreaming. Light my pipe, old woman."
So, when Mrs. Gilder had foraged in the pockets of her wonderful apron and brought out the tobacco and matches, and had filled the pipe and lighted it, the fisherman tilted his chair back against the chimney and smoked his pipe, and thought about it; but could not come to any conclusion, till at last his pipe went out, and he nodded, and nodded. Mother Gilder who sat on the other side of the fire-place, knitting a stocking that she brought out of one of her pockets, began to nod, too, waking up every once in a while to find she had dropped her stitches, and so making the needles go fast again for a few moments and then slower, till she nodded again, and at last she was fast asleep on one side of the fire-place, and Father Gilder on the other side, and little Effie in her crib. And we'll steal out on tip-toe, so as not to wake them, and come back again in just a year wanting one day.
Wish the Second.—On the Mountain.
Well, we have been gone a year lacking one day, and here we are back again on the beach, and there is the cottage, and Mrs. Gilder by her table sewing on a frock for Effie, who is sitting on her seat—the great flat rock, you know—down by the water. Effie is a year older now, and this is her seventh birth-day. She has been a pretty good girl; but then she wished a great many times that she could have stayed at the bottom of the sea, and whenever she thought of it, she seemed to hear the song that they sang there. Now she was sitting on her seat, looking out for the old man, who you remember, had promised to come for her Second Wish. She had thought about him a good many times and had made up her mind what she would ask for. It was growing late and she began to be afraid he would not come. She thought she would walk down the beach and meet him; so she walked along looking for him all the while, when she spied a boat coming toward the shore; but she did not look at it much, she was so anxious to see her old man, and she thought she could make him out, just coming along in the distance. Pretty soon, the boat came up to the beach where she was, and a rough-looking sailor jumped out.
"Little girl," said he, "where does Simon Gilder live?"
"In that house, sir," pointing to the red cottage. "He is my father."
"So you're his little girl, are you? Is your father in the house?"
"No, sir, he is in the patch in the woods back there, hoeing potatoes."
"Will you go with me and show me where it is?" Effie looked along the beach and saw the old man, as she thought, slowly coming toward them; "Oh, dear!" thought she, "if the old man should come while I am gone!"
"What's the matter, little girl?" said the sailor-man when he saw she did not answer. "Are you afraid to go with me?"
"No," faltered Effie looking down. "But mother said I wasn't to go away from the beach."
"Oh, Effie, Effie!" said a voice close to her. She started. Why! that was the old man's voice; and when she looked up, there was no sailor-man and no boat, and no one coming down the beach; but the same old man that she saw last year, in the same grey clothes, with the same beautiful long white hair, and his head shaking the same way as he bent down over his old smooth stick—the same old man stood by her.
"Oh, Effie!" said he in his beautiful voice, "you have deceived me. You weren't willing to do me a kindness; you cared too much about your own happiness. And this is your birth-day. I have come for your Second Wish. Remember, you have only one more wish after this. You must tell me this one before the sun goes down. Look!"
Effie looked as he pointed, and the sun stood just on the water's edge; and there were clouds above it and around it, but she thought it would go down clear. She had her wish all ready, though. "I wish," said she, "that I might go on to the great mountain off there," pointing back from the sea, "and see the birds and the trees and the flowers."
When she had said it, the clouds gathered before the sun, so that it could not be seen, and spread over the whole heavens, and she had hardly time to run to the cottage, before the rain began to pour down in torrents. Out at sea it was all black, except where the white caps of foam lighted up the waters; the waves rushed roaring on the beach, and the wind drove the sharp rain against the house. Effie put her face against the window-glass and peered out into the darkness, but she could see nothing of the old man.
"A bad ending to your birth-day, little Effie," said her father, coming in just then, all dripping wet. "Never mind. A bad beginning makes a good ending so your birth-day must have begun well, and this day is the beginning of the year for you, so the year'll end well. So it's good all round, ha! It's a bad night, wife! I hope nobody's out in the storm; it came up sudden."
Effie thought of the old man and shivered to think how wet and cold he would get. But she only thought of it a moment, and then began to wonder how the wish would come to pass, and whether another little sea-green man would come for her.
So she went to bed and to sleep. But, lo! before morning came she was waked by a tapping outside on the window-pane, close by her bed. At first she was frightened and put her head under the bed-clothes; then she thought, "Perhaps that is for me to go up on the mountain!" No sooner did she think of that than she heard the tapping again, and then a voice that said, "Come Effie! come with me to the mountain!"
Effie jumped out of bed and opened the window. The storm was over and the stars were shining brightly, while in the East was a patch of grey light, that showed the sun would rise before a great while. "Hurry! hurry!" said a voice near her, but she could not see anything. "Where are you?" said she. "Here," said the voice over her head. She looked up and there was a very indistinct white figure, that looked as if it might be a shadow. All she could see was something white like a robe, and two arms stretching out toward her; one of the hands came close to her; she caught hold of it, and in a moment was drawn up to the figure and wrapped in the white robe. Then a wind, blowing from the sea, bore them along and they flew off toward the mountains.
Now the mountains were a great way from the seashore, and Effie had never been there. She could see their tops from the house where she lived, and once in a while, somebody would come who had been there, and he would tell her about the trees and the brooks and the birds. Now she was to go there herself! She was held closely in the folds of the robe, only she could look out as she went and see the ground over which they were flying but they went so swiftly that she did not dare look down, so she looked up to the sky. The stars were growing fainter, and the long grey streak of dawn was growing brighter. They were nearing the mountain, too, and Effie could hear, once in a while, the tinkling of the brook as it rippled along below. At last they were close to the top of the mountain. There was a wide plain upon the top, covered with trees, while the springs of the brooks bubbled up there and flowed down the sides, and on the ground were flowers nestled among the leaves and the blades of grass.
"Look! and listen!" said the voice of the Figure that carried Effie, at the same time wheeling about, so that they faced the East. Effie looked. The stars were all gone now, save one in the distance—the morning-star. Everywhere overhead the sky was blue and clear—not a cloud to be seen; while away off before them in the East, the sky was tinged with deep, rich colours. Perfect quiet was everywhere. The wind was still; motionless the trees stood; on their boughs the birds sat, hardly rustling their feathers. She could just hear the tinkling of the brook. The flowers on the ground had their leaves folded, and near by a great eagle stood perched on a rock. The Figure holding Effie moved not at all, only as Effie sat breathless looking down to the ground, its hand pointed to the East and Effie again looked up there.
The sky was a fiery colour now, and far up toward the zenith, the crimson light shot its feathery rays; just above the horizon came a bit of gold; then higher it rose, till like a golden ball leaving the earth, it floated calmly up, up, soaring to heaven. The sun had risen! and the instant it lifted itself above the line, the voice of the figure said: "Listen!" and Effie listened. First she heard a low murmuring, and she saw the tops of the trees swaying back and forth, lifting their branches and bending them again toward the East; and as they murmured, the brooks struck in with their sparkling notes, and the trees and the brooks sang together; then the little birds on the branches opened their mouths, and their throats swelled, and out burst their pure sweet notes, chiming with the music of the trees and the brooks. Then the great, deep-mouthed wind came, first trembling and quavering, then with rich full breath, and the trees and the brooks, the birds and the wind, all sang the same glad song. The flowers opened their leaves and lifted their heads, the bright colours sparkling and shining; from the bushes sprang, fluttering, the gay butterflies and insects, and the large eagle spread its wings and sailed majestically in great circles toward the sun. Oh! it was a wonderful sight, and it was a wonderful song they sang! The whole mountain seemed to sing as the great golden sun rose higher and higher.
Only Effie was silent. Then the Figure wrapped her closer, and turning, flew back toward the seashore. "What was the song they sang?" asked Effie. "I could not tell the words." "You could not tell the words," said the voice of the Figure, "because you did not sing with them. If you had sung with them, you would have heard the words. I can only tell you a little of it, but if you sing these words, the rest will some time come to you. They all sang at the first—
"Praise to Thee! Praise to Thee! Thou art all Purity. Thou art the Source of Light— Scatter Thou the dark night. Shine on us! shine on us!"
Effie said the words over, and the voice said again "If you sing them with the song of the sea-maidens you will understand them better." Then Effie fell asleep, just as they came again to the open window and she knew nothing more till she was waked by her mother calling out—
"Effie, child! wake up! the sun was up long ago! come! come!"
Effie started up. It was broad daylight. Her father was out-doors, looking after his nets, and her mother was getting the table ready for breakfast. She dressed herself quickly, saying over in mind the words just taught her. Then she recollected that she could understand them better if she sang the song of the sea. So she said that to herself also.
"Do you go and get some water to put in the kettle, Effie," said her mother.
"Yes, mother," said she, and as she went she sang to herself—
"Work, hands! Love, heart! Every one here has his part."
"Good-morning, little one," said her father, meeting her in the door-way; "here's a bright day for your new year!"
"Isn't it!" said Effie, giving him a kiss and then singing—
"Praise to thee! Praise to thee; Thou art all Purity. Thou art the Source of Light."
"I believe the child's going to be a good girl, wife," said Father Gilder, coming into the house.
"Well, I hope she is, for she's been sulky enough before this," said Mother Gilder.
"True, true," replied he, "but sulky birds don't sing."
The year went slowly by. Effie sang the two songs as she worked, and helped her mother and was a comfort to her father. Every morning when she got up, she sang the Song of the Mountain, and through the day she kept singing, too, the Song of the Sea. Very often she thought of the old man, and wondered what she should ask for the third and last time he came. She thought she ought to ask for the best thing she could think of, but for a long time she could not make up her mind, until a few days before her birth-day, as she was singing the two songs. Then was she impatient for the day to come, that she might ask her last and great wish.
Wish the Third.—In the Cottage.
The eighth birth-day came at last, but before the sun was to set, Mrs. Gilder called her. "Here, Effie," said she, "I want you to go down cellar before it is dark, and sweep it clean. It's dreadfully dirty."
"Must I go now, mother?"
"Yes, right off; it'll be too dark if you don't make haste," and Mrs. Gilder drew a bunch of keys out of one of her apron pockets and unlocked the closet door and brought out a broom for Effie. Effie took the broom and went down cellar. "Well," thought she, "I must do my work at any rate, and the old man may not come by till I get it done." So she set to work, sweeping out the cellar. She had just finished and stooped to pick up a perverse chip. As she lifted herself up, there stood that same old man again!
"Why! how did you get in, sir?" said she.
"The sun is most down, Effie," said he without answering her question, "what is your Last Wish?" As he said it his head shook harder than ever before, and he leaned on his cane so that he was almost bent double.
"Oh, sir! I wish," said Effie, "that I might do some great work that should make others happy, and that I might be able to sing the whole of the Song of the Mountain." As she said this the old man raised his head slowly from his staff, and when she finished, lo! he was changed into a great beam of light that cast its rays all about the cellar. Effie flew up stairs with her broom, and ran to the cottage door. The sea was sparkling with light, and the sun went down clear and beautiful.
"Aye! there's a sunset for you, chicky," said Father Gilder, coming up from the shore. "There'll be no storm after that! Do you remember your last birth day, little one, when there was such a sudden storm came up?" Yes, indeed, Effie remembered it and wondered whether the sky would always be clear now.
The next day Effie looked for somebody to come and give her some great thing to do, and teach her the Song of the Mountain, as she had wished for her last wish. But no one came—no, nor the next day, nor the day after; and then every thing went wrong. Her mother became sick and cross, and finally died; and Effie had to wear the wonderful apron with so many pockets, and work hard every day. How could she do any great work? All she could do was to take care of the house and do little things—ever so many of them there were, too, so that when the evening came she was quite tired out. But her father said she was a comfort to him, and he loved to have her sit by him and sing to him. She sang the two songs over and over, as she did every day at her work, and never tired of singing them, nor did he tire of hearing them.
So she lived on. She had a great many more birthdays, but no old man came to see her, and nobody came to give her a great work to do, or to teach her the rest of the song. By and by her father died too, but Effie lived still in the little red cottage by the sea-shore. And if any were sick or in trouble, they were sure to come to her. For every body loved her, and wherever she went she seemed to carry the sunlight with her, and to make everybody better and happier. Still no one came, though every birth-day she sat at the door, looking for the old man.
But he did come at last. It was her birth-day. She was an old woman, but she sat in the door-way as she used to, watching for somebody to come to her with a great work to do, and the rest of the song. She sat in her great arm-chair, and her eyes were very dim so that she could not see very well, and her ears were very dull, so that she could hardly hear at all. There was the sun that had so often gone down without any one's appearing. But before it touched the water she heard a voice—that old sweet voice that she had never forgotten, saying, "Effie!" She looked, and there she saw the same face that the old man used to have, but that was all she could see. Then it said again, "Effie!" and she said:
"Oh, sir! have you come at last to give me my wish? I have looked for you year after year, and now I am an old woman, and have not many more days to live."
"Your wish has been granted, Effie. You asked for some great work to do to make others happy. All your life since you have been doing the great work. There is nothing right or holy done for others that is not great. The little daily duties that you did so faithfully; the little kindnesses you showed to others; the little pleasant words you spoke—these are all great things."
"But the Song of the Mountain?" asked Effie.
"Dear child," said he, "you have sung the song all your life. If you have thanked God for his goodness to you—if you have loved him for his love to you—if you have prayed to him to make you good and holy—you have sung the Song of the Mountain."
"Praise to thee! Praise to thee!" murmured the old woman. Then she thought she heard the whole mountain singing as it did the morning she listened to it; and the great song was sung, and she sang also, and the voice beside her sang.
* * * * *
——The people who lived about there say, that when they came in the morning to see Old Effie, she was sitting in her arm-chair, with her hands folded, and her lips half parted as if she had sung herself to sleep; and when they touched her she did not move—for Old Effie was dead.
A Christmas Stocking
With a Hole in it
The Stocking is Hung.
At Christmas-tide in New York, the people who live in the upper part of the city cannot hear the chimes that ring from Trinity steeple; but in the dwelling streets which run in and out among the warehouse streets, and in the courts which stand stock still and refuse to go a step further,—there the Trinity music is heard and the "merry Christmas" of the bells is flung out to all however poor. Beside Trinity there are but few chimes of bells in the city, neither do poor children there sing Christmas carols in the streets and thus unlatch the doors of even crabbed hearts.
But the merriest chimes of bells are played and the sweetest carols sung even in New York. For when at Christmas one walks in the crowded streets he may hear on all sides the merry Christmas! merry Christmas to you! to you! rung out on every key and the chiming makes perfect music; the poor children sing carols too, for are they not each little songs as they stand in their rags before well-to-do folk—songs without words—reminding us of the poor child Jesus and the blessings which He brought? Yes, the bells ring in our hearts and we hear carols then at least if not at other times; and in some old cobwebbed heart does Christmas fancy or Christmas memory enter and ring disused bells that sound but a hoarse blessing, so rusty has their metal become, but a blessing at least well-meant. Blessed be Christmas that it knocks so at the door of our hearts.
Now it was on a certain Christmas that some very pleasant chimes were rung, and that too within hearing of Trinity bells. In the street on Christmas eve were Bundles of great coats and furs tied together with tippets, who hurried along like locomotives, puffing and snorting and leaving behind a line of smoke. But all the people in the streets were not Bundles, by any means. Some scarcely had any wrappings, let alone such heavy coverings as great coats and furs. Little boys may be Bundles if they are properly wrapped up and tied with a tippet or scarf, but not all little boys are Bundles. On this eve one might see many who were not. They kept their hands in their pockets or breathed upon their red fingers, and drew their shoulders together and screwed their faces as if they were trying to hide behind themselves, while the wind blew through every crevice of their bodies and rattled the teeth in their mouths.
One of these little boys upon this very Christmas eve hung up his stocking, and what became of it is now to be told. His name was Peter Mit. He had been out all day selling cigars, and was on his way home to supper. But hungry and cold as he was, he could not help stopping to look through the shop-windows at the beautiful things spread out so temptingly behind them. Such toys and games and picture books! "Now," said he, "I must run;" but just as he started, he came to a window so much finer than any he had seen that he stopped before this also. There was a string fastened across the inside of the window with picture and story papers hung upon it; the glass was not very clear, for the frost made it almost like crown-glass, but it was clear enough in the corner to shew one of the pictures, which was a double one; in one part there was a little boy in his night-gown hanging a stocking upon the door of his bed-chamber; in the other part the little boy is shown snugly asleep in his bed, while a most odd little man hung over with toys and picture books of all kinds stands on tip-toe before the stocking, filling it with playthings. There was some printing underneath that explained the picture; as well as Peter could make out, this little boy like a great many others hung up his stocking before he went to bed on Christmas eve, and some time during the night, Santa Klaus, a queer old man, very fond of little folk, came down the chimney and filled the stocking with presents. This was all new to little Peter, and astonished him exceedingly; but it was really too cold to stand there looking at even the most wonderful picture, so he blew into his red fist, and ran off home, taking long slides on the ice wherever he could.
He left the bright Main Street and turning one or two corners came to Fountain Court. That is a fine-sounding name, but the houses are very wretched and low, though quite grand people lived there in olden times; where the fountain was no one could say, unless the wheezy pump that stands at the head of the court were meant for it; of this the Pump itself had no doubt. It was very large and had a long heavy handle that always stood out stiffly; there was a knob on the top of the pump that had once been gilded but that was a long time ago, when the Pump was aristocratic and presumed itself to be a Fountain. It was dingy and broken now, but the Pump was none the less proud and dignified; it took pleasure in holding out its handle stiffly and never letting it down though people stumbled against it every day. "It had been there the longest," the Pump said, "it had a right to the way; people must learn to turn out for it."
It was down this Fountain Court—though people now generally called it Pump Court—that little Peter Mit ran as fast as his legs could carry him. He stopped at the fourth house on the right-hand side; it was a low building, only a story and a half high, yet a respectable merchant had lived there formerly. Before the door stood a battered wooden image of a savage Indian, holding out a bunch of cigars in his hand, and looking as if he meant to tomahawk you if you didn't take one. The Indian was quite stuck over with snow-balls, for he was a fine mark for the boys in the court, who divided their attention between his head and the knob on top of the Pump. If it were not so dark, one might spell out on the dingy sign over the door, the names "MORGRIDGE AND MIT DEALERS IN TOBACCO." The only window was adorned with half a dozen boxes of cigars, a few pipes, a bottle of snuff, and a melancholy plaister sailor, who had been smoking one pipe, with his hands in his pockets, as long as the oldest inhabitant in the court could remember.
Peter Mit opened the door from the street and entered the shop; one solitary oil lamp stood upon the counter, behind which sat David Morgridge, the surviving partner of the firm of Morgridge and Mit Dealers in Tobacco. Solomon Mit, the uncle of little Peter had been dead five years, and on dying had bequeathed his orphan-nephew to his partner, and so as Mr. Morgridge had no children, and Peter had no father, the two lived together alone in the old house.
Mr. Morgridge was not a talkative man—one would see that at a glance; his mouth looked as if it shut with a spring. Mr. Mit, when living had been even more silent, but when he did speak—then one would look for golden words; for so small a man he was surely very wise. Mr. Morgridge used to say that it was because his name was Solomon, and that was the only thing Mr. Morgridge had ever said that came near being witty. All the court knew it, and the saying almost turned the corner at the head of the court. They divided the business between them Mr. Morgridge attending to the snuff department, Mr. Mit to the cigar and pipe branch. It was the intention of Mr. Mit, expressed soon after the adoption of little Peter, to bring him up to take charge of the chewing tobacco branch. In consequence of this division of the business, David Morgridge took snuff incessantly, but never smoked. Solomon Mit smoked all the while but never took snuff. They did this to recommend their wares. Besides, it served to explain the duty of each partner. If a customer came in for pipes or cigars he invariably went directly to Mr. Mit; if he came for snuff, he as surely turned to Mr. Morgridge.
When Peter entered the shop, Mr. Morgridge was just wiping his face after a pinch of snuff; the whole air of the shop was snuffy, and no one came in without instantly being tempted to sneeze. Peter sneezed as a matter of course, and Mr. Morgridge, after his usual fashion, replied with a "God bless you!" He seldom got the compliment in return, however, as in his case the blessing would have become so common as to be quite worthless. Mr. Morgridge then inquired into Peter's sales, and with that his regular conversation ended. His mouth shut so closely, with the corners turned down to cover any possible opening, that one would know immediately that no accidental words could escape. But to-night Peter did not mean to let his guardian keep his usual silence; he was too much concerned about the picture he had seen in the shop-window. He waited however till after tea. Then, as they returned to the shop, Mr. Morgridge taking his customary seat upon his bench, with a pot of snuff beside him, set about his work of putting up tobacco in divers shapes. Peter took his customary seat also, much above Mr. Morgridge. It was a seat which he had inherited from his uncle. Solomon Mit, being a contemplative man, was desirous of being lifted above ordinary things when he pursued his meditations, and had accordingly built a sort of watch-tower out of several boxes, placed one upon another, and topped by an arm-chair, deprived of its legs. Into this chair Solomon used to climb, and when there, his head was not far from the ceiling. Here he would sit in his lofty station, and wrapped in the smoke from his own pipe, would revolve in his mind various questions, occasionally dropping from the clouds a remark to his partner, who sat snuffing below on the bench. Customers, when they entered the shop, had become used to the sight of the little man's legs as they appeared below the cloud, and a classical scholar chancing in one day to fill his pipe, had likened him to Zeus upon the top of Olympus.
Peter valued this watch-tower above all his possessions, and here every night he sat perched, and counted the fly-specks on the ceiling, or fished up things from the floor by means of a hook and line which he kept by him. To-night, however, after he had climbed into the chair, he broke the usual silence by putting the following question to Mr. Morgridge:
"Mr. Morgridge, is this Christmas Eve?" to which David Morgridge, after taking a pinch of snuff cautiously replied:
"It may be;" and then added, as if to explain his uncertainty of mind—"I don't keep the run o' Christmas."
"Does Santa Klaus really come down a chimney Christmas night and fill the stocking with presents?" proceeded Peter. And then, getting no answer, he gave an account of what he had seen in the window, and being very much interested, he told also what he thought of it all, and the resolution that he had finally come to, namely, to hang up his own stocking that very night. Mr. Morgridge having listened to what Peter had to say, took more snuff and seemed disposed to let that end the matter, but Peter persisted in getting his opinion.
"Mr. Morgridge," said he, "do you think Santa Klaus will come and fill my stocking?" Being pressed for an answer, Mr. Morgridge made shift to say—
"May be, but should say not; used to believe in Santa Klaus when I was a boy; don't now; 'taint no use."
This was rather discouraging, but Peter upon thinking it over on his watch-tower, reflected that Mr. Morgridge used to believe in Santa Klaus, and that the queer fellow only visited boys: besides, he thought it might be owing to the snuff that he disbelieved in him now; for it was by that Peter usually explained Mr. Morgridge's eccentricities.
But Peter was tired and drowsy, and clambering down from his perch, set out for his bed, groping his way up the steep staircase that led to the half-story above, where he had his cot. He never went up that staircase in the dark—and a light was a luxury not to be thought of—without imagining all manner of horrors which he might see at the top. In one place, there were two small holes in the floor close together; the place was over the shop, and whenever there was a light burning below, he could see these two holes blinking and shining like two eyes. It was the last thing he saw when he got into bed, and he would say to himself in a bold way, as if to show any ghosts or goblins that might possibly be about, how undaunted he was, "Two Eyes! come here and swallow me up!" and then he would draw the bed-clothes over his head for a minute or two, and peep out to reassure himself that Two Eyes had not taken him at his word and come to swallow him up. But Two Eyes never came, and this gave him fresh courage, so that of late he had become quite bold in the dark.
As he climbed up the staircase this night, his little head was full of the idea of Santa Klaus. The chimney was convenient, he thought to himself, for it passed through the loft and there was a large open fire-place in it never used. But then, suppose he should come down before the fire in the room below was fairly out! he would get scorched. But it was too cold to sit long guessing about such matters, so he undressed himself quickly. Last of all, he drew off his right stocking. This he held in his hand—"Oh!" said he, "it has got a hole in it; the things will all come out!" Indeed, it was almost all hole, for beside the proper hole which every stocking has or it isn't a stocking, there was a hole in the heel and another very large one in the toes. He looked at it in despair, and then took up the other one; but that was even worse. He consoled himself, finally, as well as he could, by the reflection that Santa Klaus would probably put all the large things in first, and thus they would stop the holes up and nothing would be lost.
He cast about now for a place to hang it. The little boy in the picture hung his on the door, but that was out of the question, for there was no nail there. He remembered finally a hook in the wall not far from the chimney. It was a dreadful place to go to, so near Two Eyes! but he mustered courage, especially when he considered how very convenient it would be for Santa Klaus. His heart went pit-a-pat as he stole over the floor; the boards under his feet creaked and every bone in his body seemed to be going off like a firecracker. It seemed to him as if Two Eyes and all his friends were starting from every corner of the room.
Going back was not so bad as all the ghosts were now behind him. He shivered into his cold bed, and drew his knees up to his chin. So excited was he about Santa Klaus, that when he looked presently toward the other end of the room and saw Two Eyes blinking at him, he forgot for the instant that he had ever seen them before, and fancied Santa Klaus must have made his appearance already. He was just ready to scream, when he recollected what the Eyes were, and boldly saying:—
"Two Eyes! come here and swallow me up!" he rolled himself up in the bed clothes and was soon fast asleep.
The clock of Trinity struck twelve. One would have thought from the long pause after each stroke, that it had great difficulty in making out the complete number. Really it was so long about it because it wished to give plenty of time for starting to the various persons and things in the neighborhood, who are wont to be agog at that hour only. The Man on St. Paul's, however, was so long getting ready that the twelfth stroke came before he was fairly off,—so he lost his chance for this time. It is so with him every night. When the first stroke comes it startles him and he rubs his eyes and wonders where he is; he continues to rub his eyes and wonder till the sixth stroke has sounded. Then he collects his thoughts a little, and by the ninth stroke remembers that if he is quick enough, he can shut up his book, get down from his high and uncomfortable perch, and stretch his legs a little in a ramble through the church-yard or round the Park. Having to be in a hurry, for it must be done during the three following strokes, he gets confused, and before he can muster sufficient presence of mind, the clock has struck twelve, and he must wait another day.
The Grocer on the City Hall was in a difficult predicament. It has long been his intention to get down with his scales and weigh the City Corporation. He tries to do it when the clock strikes twelve, as that is his only chance. He heard the first stroke, and was on the alert. He indeed succeeded in reaching the ground, but he could not find the Corporation, though he searched the Hall and the Park. All that he could discover was a sleepy alderman. He returned to his place in disgust. He could not see, for his part, why the Corporation did not sit in the night-time; it would seem to be the proper hour. This he said to the Eagle perched on a pole near by, and who had just returned from a visit to his grand-uncle who has been all his life on the point of dropping an umbrella, point downward, on the greatest rogue in the city. The Eagle found his grand-uncle had not yet dropped the umbrella, because he was not sure that he had found the greatest rogue.
But other people and things are not so stupid as the Man on St. Paul's, nor so unsuccessful as the Grocer. They are brisker and seize the opportunity to enjoy themselves. The Pump, for instance, that stands at the head of Fountain Court, generally indulges himself in a soliloquy. He talks through his nose, to be sure, which sounds disagreeably, but the nearest listeners do not mind it. For the Man on St. Paul's is too stupid or it may be asleep. The Grocer is running round with his scales, looking for the Corporation. Sir Walter Raleigh has taken so much snuff that his own voice is even more disagreeable, and so he has no right to complain. The nearest listener of all would be the Indian in front of Morgridge and Mit, dealers in tobacco, but he has gone to have a talk with Sir Walter Raleigh; so the Pump has it all its own way. Let us hear what the Pump said this night:—
"Well, so it's Christmas again, is it? how the years do go by! and how things change! To think of the difference between this court now and what it used to be! Why, I can remember very well when fine ladies and gentlemen gathered here on Christmas eve. The watchman would go along with them with a lantern in his hand. I was of importance then—I am now, to be sure, but then people recognized me and considered me. I gave the name to the court—that was something! But those days went by; and then there was that time when a noisy fellow got up on my head, where he kept his place with difficulty, and spouted ever so much eloquence about rights and liberty and constitution. No good ever came of that! for it was he who broke off a piece of the gilt knob on my head, and it has never been mended since. That was the beginning of my troubles, and now to what a pass have things come. Why, a ragged, drunken man leaned up against me—ugh! this very night, and I see the poorest kind of people go down the court. I was used to have nothing but fine pitchers and pails brought to me to fill, but now I have to look into dirty broken pitchers and old tubs. They have even begun to call the place Pump Court, as if I were no better than a common every-day pump! What is worst, there is an upstart just the other side of the way,—it lets out water to be sure, but it has nothing to say about it; it has no handle, and the water comes out by just turning a screw; altogether it is a very plebeian thing; it can know nothing of the pleasure of feeling a box go rumbling down your inside, and fetching up water from the depths of the earth.
"There go the Christmas bells! Many a time I've heard them before and seen Santa Klaus hurrying along to visit every house in the court. He never goes near them now, and no wonder, for he can't care to associate with such low people. When he does come, he looks soberer, and not so jolly as he used to; nor does he bring so many and such fine things. I am in fact the only respectable thing in the neighborhood. But bless my boxes! what a shock that was! somebody must have struck my handle; served him right; he ought to turn out. I've been here the longest."
It was the sleepy alderman who was hastening by. "Confound that pump-handle!" said he. "That's the second time to-day I've stumbled against it. I'll have the pump taken up and carted off to-morrow. It's a nuisance; nobody wants it here."
It was difficult to make out what the Pump said to this; it was so choked with rage at the indignity, that only a confused gurgling could be distinguished in its throat. But that was the end of its soliloquy.
The Pump was partly right. Santa Klaus did not visit the court as often as he used, nor did he bring such fine presents with him. But it was not because he disliked the society that he did not come, it was because they did not hang stockings up. The stocking must be hung or he will not go—that is the rule. He is wonderfully keen in scent; he will go straight to a stocking even if it be hidden in the darkest corner. He cares nothing about time or place either. He can be where he chooses at any moment. So, just as the twelfth stroke of Trinity sounded, Santa Klaus was in Fountain Court. The Indian was scurrying down the place with his cigars in his hand, and taking his stand before Morgridge and Mit, put on his face its fiercest expression as the sound of the stroke died away. At the same moment Santa Klaus was in the house, in the loft where little Peter Mit had hung his stocking. Whether he entered by the chimney or not, it is impossible to say, but I suspect he did, for the door was locked and there was no other entrance.
At any rate there he was, and standing on tip-toe by Peter's stocking. He began to fill it and emptied one of his pockets. "Really," said he, "this is a very capacious stocking." It was not full yet, and he emptied into it another pocketful. "This is remarkable!" said he, stopping in amazement, "it is as roomy as a meal-bag. What an extraordinary foot that little boy must have!"
Santa Klaus' clothes are all pocket pretty much, and he emptied the contents of a third into the stocking, which was still not full. Then he stopped to examine it. "Oh! oh!" said he, "this is very bad! there is a hole in the stocking!" It would never do to keep pouring things in at one end while they passed out at the other, and his presents could only be placed in stockings. So Santa Klaus sorrowfully gathered up the presents, and leaving the stocking as empty as he found it, was off in a twinkling.
Kleiner Traum visits Peter Mit.
The moment Santa Klaus whisked out of the room, Kleiner Traum whisked in. It is impossible to say how he got into the room either; it is enough that he was there. Kleiner Traum is a very remarkable personage. He is like Santa Klaus in this, that he moves very quickly and can make visits in one night all over the world. But more than that, he has the power of making people see just what he chooses. Some persons think that they have seen two Kleiner Traums, a good and a bad, but the fault is in their eyes. He carries a kaleidoscope with him and shakes it before people; just how he shakes it, so are the things they see. These things are very apt to be like what has happened to them at different times, only much more grotesque.
Kleiner Traum had come to make Peter Mit a visit, and show him his kaleidoscope. Little Peter was fast asleep—that is the only time when Kleiner Traum visits people,—and snugly curled up in bed. He was not thinking or dreaming about anything, when now Kleiner Traum held the kaleidoscope before him, and gave it a twist. What now did he see?
He saw an exceedingly queer-looking man squeeze out of the fire-place; he was hung over with toys, and his pockets bulged out with the things inside; in fact, he was quite the image of the little man he had seen in the picture in the shop-window, and Peter made up his mind instantly that it was Santa Klaus. As soon as he got on his legs in the middle of the room, Two Eyes, whom Peter had so often called upon to swallow him up, began moving about, apparently trying to mislead Santa Klaus. Peter was ready to scream out, but for the life of him he couldn't make a sound. He watched Two Eyes, who seemed to think he would draw Santa Klaus to the head of the staircase, and then dance about so as to make him tumble headlong down the steps. But Santa Klaus was too knowing for Two Eyes. Peter saw him go to the door as if expecting to find the stocking there, and then not finding it, turn about and walk around the room till he came to where it hung upon the hook.
Peter was now terribly excited, and Kleiner Traum gave the kaleidoscope another twist. During the process of twisting, Peter's mind was in a queer jumble, and he thought he saw Two Eyes peeping out of the stocking, and Santa Klaus sitting on the Pump at the head of the court; but as soon as the kaleidoscope was still, it was clear again, and he could see Santa Klaus standing on tip-toe before the stocking and emptying into it the contents of his pockets.
The first thing he took out was a tin trumpet; just such a one as Peter had himself seen in a shop-window the day before. This he put into the stocking, giving a chuckle and trying it to see if it were good; it sounded splendidly. Then came a sled. It was astonishing how it ever came out of Santa Klaus' pocket and still more astonishing how it could get into the stocking. Yet surely Peter saw it enter, and that very easily. After the sled came a monkey-jack. Before he put it in Santa Klaus twitched the monkey, and made it turn summersaults over the stick, till he was nearly ready to fall down with laughing at it. A mask came next—a leering mask with a long nose, and eyes, frightful enough to scare all the people in the court. Then followed a warm muffler for the head; it was a very comfortable looking thing. No sooner was the muffler safely in than a pint of peanuts rolled into the stocking, and after the peanuts came some marbles, and after the marbles, a dozen red apples, and after the apples a pair of skates, and after the skates a bundle of candy.
It certainly was astonishing to see how much the stocking would hold. Peter could hardly believe his eyes, yet there it was, and he saw everything that went into it. But the candy was the last thing; the stocking was now full and the candy peeped out at the top. Peter saw Santa Klaus look approvingly at the stocking, give it a pat and disappear through the fire-place again, looking just as full of presents as when he came down.
At this point Kleiner Traum turned the kaleidoscope, and Peter was all in a jumble again. Apparently the stocking was going up the chimney and Santa Klaus was riding on the toe, while Two Eyes was coming toward Peter to swallow him up. Peter was just on the point of giving himself up for lost, expecting the next moment to be swallowed up by Two Eyes, when it was clear again, and Two Eyes was in his old place, and the stocking was hanging on its hook; only Santa Klaus had disappeared up the chimney. For you see, Kleiner Traum's kaleidoscope was quiet again.
Now what did Peter see? The stocking was swollen to an enormous bulk, and what was more, Peter could see everything that was going on inside. He saw that they were quarrelling about the places they should occupy; for in the heel and in the toe of the stocking, were the two holes which were now of an alarming size. The Sled commenced the trouble. It felt itself slowly but surely slipping toward the hole in the toe, with the weight of all the other things on him. "Don't crowd so!" Peter heard the Sled say to the Tin Trumpet.
"I'm not pushing," said the Tin Trumpet; "I'd give anything if I weren't sliding so toward that dreadful hole!" "Monkey-Jack, I'll thank you to keep that stick of yours out of my mouth." Just then, an apple losing its footing, dropped through the hole in the heel of the stocking, and Peter heard it go rolling over the floor; another quickly followed, and another.
"Oh!" said the Mask, "this is getting dangerous; there is a dreadful cavity under me; but I'll put a bold face on it. There goes another apple." Peter heard apple follow apple out of the hole in the heel, till the whole dozen were on the floor, where they still went rolling off after each other toward the staircase when they hopped thumpty-thump down the steps, till the last one had gone. Meanwhile the Sled, the Tin Trumpet and the Monkey-Jack were having a sad time in the foot of the stocking. "I cannot hold on much longer," said the Sled, and it had hardly spoken the words, before it slid out through the toe, and Peter heard it go sliding over the floor and follow the apples down the staircase.
Matters were no better, but rather worse in the leg of the stocking. A weak voice was heard in the corner. It was a Peanut complaining bitterly of the Marbles. "If ye had not come in here among us," it said, "we should have done very well, but now ye are pushing us all toward the hole." The Marbles could not reply, they were too frightened themselves; they had crowded in among the Peanuts for safety, and now there was danger of both going. One large Marble alone held them all back; it was wedged in by the Monkey-Jack, and the Monkey-Jack had its stick in the Tin Trumpet's mouth. But the Tin Trumpet had only caught by a single thread of the stocking; that gave way, and down came the Trumpet followed by the Monkey-Jack. The Trumpet rolled off toward the door like the rest, and the Monkey-Jack went head-over-heels after it. Of course the large Marble had no help for it now; he dropped out of the heel, and the rest of the Marbles came tumbling after with the Peanuts in the midst of them. The Marbles and Peanuts, unlike the rest, rolled off toward Two Eyes; the Marbles disappeared through one eye, the Peanuts through the other.
It seemed of no avail now for the rest to keep their place. "It is no use to keep up appearances longer," said the Mask, and he dropped out and walked off on his nose. The Skates who had not spoken before, now turned to the Muffler and said: "We shall cut a pretty figure going through the hole like the rest, we may not go after all; there's many a slip—" but before they had finished the sentence they had followed the rest, and were striking out for the door.
Nothing now remained but the Muffler and the Candy. The Muffler spoke in a thick voice, "I am a sort of relation to the stocking and intend to remain by it, if it is a poor relation. It won't turn me out of doors, surely." The Candy, replied in a sweet voice, "As for me, I shall stick to the stocking. My dear Muffler, you quite melt me, you are so warm and affectionate."
After this point, Peter could see or hear nothing further, and for a very good reason—Kleiner Traum had vanished with his kaleidoscope.
Kleiner Traum Visits David Morgridge.
It is no secret whither Kleiner Traum vanished. The moment he had left little Peter Mit, he was sitting on David Morgridge's breast, kaleidoscope in hand.
One shake of the kaleidoscope. Really, Mr. Morgridge sees strange things. He sees a little boy no bigger than Peter Mit, in a snug little room, hanging up on the door a red and white plaid stocking. The strangest thing is that he remembers the place and surroundings perfectly. He knows the cozy room, the white dimity curtains, the little cot bed, the sixteen-paned window looking out on the church-spire and the meadow; it was as if he had skipped sixty years of his life backward, for the little boy was a diminutive David Morgridge.
But the kaleidoscope makes quick shifts. Here is another turn, and Mr. Morgridge, as if he were a picture on the wall, is looking at a room which he knows well enough. It is the tobacco shop. There are two men in it; one sits on the bench and takes snuff, and does up little paper pellets; the other is just discoverable under a cloud of tobacco smoke, perched upon the top of a small observatory. This, too, is Christmas Eve, for so the little man on the watch-tower announces, as if he kept the calendar of the seasons, and piped an "All's Well" to his comrade below.
"David," he says, "David Morgridge! This is Christmas Eve. 'On earth peace, good will toward men.' That's what the Bible says, and that's what Trinity chimes say. How many Christmases have we kept together? eighteen, David; then that's eighteen turkeys for the poor folk, though bless us we're not much richer." This is a long speech for Solomon Mit, yet the man snuffing on the bench says nothing, but scowls. Then does Solomon Mit clamber down from his watch-tower, and with his cheery, piping voice sing a Christmas hymn, and though David Morgridge never lends his voice, the little man is no whit disheartened, but ends with laying his hand on David's shoulder and heartily wishing—"God bless you, David Morgridge, old friend—God bless us all!" and climbs once more to the top of his tower.
Quickly turns the kaleidoscope again, and now Mr. Morgridge, like a shadow in the dark that can see but not be seen, is in the room where he is now sleeping. But he is not on the bed, he is standing by the side of it, and the old cheery voice, though weaker now, of Solomon Mit comes from the pillow. The little man has come down from his tower for the last time, and has puffed his last pipeful of tobacco smoke. This, too, is Christmas Eve, and Solomon Mit has not forgotten it. Listen, he is speaking now.
"David Morgridge, old friend, twenty years we've lived together. You've been a true friend to me. We haven't said much, but we've trusted each other. I'm the first to go, and I'm glad to go on Christmas Eve. I'd like to go when the bells are ringing and Trinity is chiming, 'Peace on earth, good will toward men;' that's it David. Don't forget the turkeys; twenty you know; and don't make 'em chickens. You haven't always liked to give them, but you will now. And you'll be good to little Peter. I bequeath him to you, David, to hold and to keep in trust; and all that's mine in the shop; it's all yours. There are the bells—
"'All glory be to God on high, And to the Earth be peace'"—
But Solomon Mit has sung without finishing his last hymn.
What more Mr. Morgridge might have seen, we shall never know, for at this point Kleiner Traum and his kaleidoscope vanished, and did not come back that night at any rate.
When does Christmas Day begin? It can never be determined, but most people think it begins when they wake, though all do not wake at once; the children generally have the longest Christmas Day. Now, in Fountain Court, almost before daylight, there was some one astir. He came out of the door of Morgridge & Mit, dealers in tobacco, and toddled up the court at an astonishing gait. Where did he go to? he certainly passed the pump and turned the corner, and in a quarter of an hour more was trotting down the court with a parcel in his hand. The door of Morgridge & Mit closes behind him, but not before we have seen his face. Verily, it is Mr. Morgridge, but so extraordinarily like Santa Klaus is he, that we are puzzled to know which of the two it is; the form and shoulders are those of Mr. Morgridge, but the face at least is borrowed from Santa Klaus; Mr. Morgridge never in his life looked so jolly. Not to confound this person with the sour-faced man who sat glumpy, upon the bench taking snuff, the night before, let us call him Morgridge Klaus.
Morgridge Klaus stole slily up stairs to Peter Mit's loft. He went up stairs because there was so much of the Morgridge about him; if there had been more of the Klaus he would undoubtedly have come down the chimney. At the top of the stairs, where it was still quite dark, he could see Peter curled up in bed. But it was not he that he had come to see. He began groping about on the floor in search of something. "Ah! here it is!" he said with a chuckle, bringing to light a stocking most woefully riddled with holes. Morgridge Klaus stuffed a paper parcel into the stocking, and laying it carefully on the floor, stumbled down stairs, chuckling to himself and taking snuff immoderately.
Mr. Morgridge's Christmas Day had in fact commenced, but it was an hour yet before Peter Mit began his Christmas Day. The little fellow rubbed his eyes and drew his knees nearer his chin when he awoke. Then he remembered the day and looked eagerly toward the chimney. There hung his stocking, as small, as full of holes, and as empty as when he hung it. "So it was a dream only after all," he said sorrowfully. Still he went over to it in hopes that the dream might have come true, and that the candy and muffler had remained by the stocking, but they too were gone. Peter shiveringly dressed himself. He had now only one stocking and a shoe to put on. How heavy the stocking was! there was something in it! Peter grew greatly excited—"Santa Klaus must have taken this stocking after all!" said he. Yes, there was a bundle, and the paper stuck to the inside. It was candy without a doubt; but where was the muffler? Peter turned the stocking inside out, but the muffler had gone after the rest of the things. The candy alone was faithful.
Peter hastened down stairs. Mr. Morgridge was there getting breakfast ready. Peter eagerly told him of his good fortune. What a chuckle did the old fellow give! it was amazing to Peter. He had never before heard Mr. Morgridge make such a noise. He had never seen his face so broken up into smiles and grins. He could hardly believe it was Mr. Morgridge. Nor was it—it was Morgridge Klaus.
While breakfast was in preparation, Peter climbed up into his watch-tower. Well done! there was a muffler in the chair! precisely like the one which he had seen enter the stocking the night before. How could it have found its way to his seat? As he was looking at it in wonderment, there was another undoubted chuckle from Morgridge Klaus. Peter was astonished beyond measure. Could Mr. Morgridge be Santa Klaus? impossible! yet he began to believe it, for was it any harder of belief than that it was Mr. Morgridge who then spoke in a voice that had in it the cheeriness of Solomon Mit:—
"Come down, little Peter! To-day is Christmas Day. We must hurry through breakfast; for we've got twenty-five turkeys to carry to twenty-five honest poor folk. It will go hard with us, but we'll make shift to buy 'em. God bless you Peter Mit!" and may the Indian in front of the door tomahawk me if David Morgridge did not then and there, in his old, wheezy, snuff-choked voice, sing—
"All glory be to God on high, And to the Earth be peace, Good will, henceforth, from Heaven to men, Begin and never cease!"
The Little Castaways
The Little Castaways.
It was a June afternoon, long and gentle; the sun did not scorch as it does in August, and the wind was from the South, just strong enough to stir the trees a little, and to carry the fragrance of the flowers through the air. It was such an afternoon as old people like to spend listlessly watching the bees and the butterflies, and thinking of old times; nor are they the only people who like June afternoons; their children and their grandchildren in different fashion, make the most of these long hours and never think them too long.
Old Benjy Robin was humming a psalm-tune as he sat in his chair upon the front stoop of his son's house, where he always lived; he had moved away a little from the open passage which led to the back of the house, to avoid the draught of wind that passed gently through. It was a very pleasant wind to younger folk, but Old Benjy was turned of eighty, and not so warm in his blood as to like such cool currents. His cane stood between his knees, over which was spread a large red silk handkerchief, and his hands were folded before him; while his two thumbs slowly turned round each other, sometimes one way, sometimes the other. Before him he could see down the garden walk, with its trim rows of shrubbery, and beyond farther on, the very lovely hills that closed in the lake of Clearwater, the shore of which was but a little way off. John Robin, his son, who owned the house and farm, owned also part of the lake, and there was a path, leading from the other side of the road in front of the house, down to the shore where the horses were taken to water and where the farmer kept his boats. It was a beautiful view from the stoop, especially when as now the white clouds were floating over the tops of the hills.
It was so quiet and the air was so mild that old Benjy soon began to feel sleepy; he took the red bandanna from his knees and threw it over his head to keep the flies away from his face, and then settled himself to sleep, while his thumbs continued to go slowly round and round as if they were trying in vain to overtake one another. Old Juniper too, the great Newfoundland dog that lay at his feet, gave up trying to catch the flies that plagued him, and stretching himself out as much as he could, drew in his tongue over his red gums, and also fell sound asleep breathing very hard.