Book For Christmas
by Cyrus Townsend Brady
A Little Book for Christmas
Containing a Greeting, a
Word of Advice, Some Personal Adventures, a Carol, a Meditation, and Three
Christmas Stories for All Ages
Cyrus Townsend Brady
Author of "And Thus He
Came, A Christmas Fantasy," "Christmas When the West Was
Young," etc., etc.
With Illustrations and
G.P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
MRS. LEONARD L. HILL
AND HER CHARMING COMPANIONS
THE AMERICAN CRITERION SOCIETY
OF NEW YORK
Christmas is one of the great days of obligation and
observance in the Church of which I am a Priest; but it is much more than
that, it is one of the great days of obligation and observance in the
world. Furthermore it is one of the evidences of the power of Him Whose
birth we commemorate that its observation is not limited by conditions of
race and creed. Those who fail to see in Him what we see nevertheless see
something and even by imperfect visions are moved to joy. The world
transmutes that joy into blessing, not merely by giving of its substance
but of its soul because men perceive that it is for the soul's good and
because they hope to receive its benefits although they well know that
giving is far better than receiving, in the very words of Him Who gave us
the greatest of all gifts—Himself.
As a Priest of the Church, as a Missionary in the
Far West, as the Rector of large and important parishes I have been
brought in touch with varied life. Christmas in all its phases is familiar
to me. The author of many books and stories as well as the preacher of
many sermons, it is natural that Christmas should have engaged a large
part of my attention. Out of the abundance of material which I have
accumulated in the course of a long ministry and a longer life I have
gathered here a sheaf of things I have written about Christmas; personal
adventures, stories suggested by the old yet ever-new theme; meditations,
words of advice which I am old enough to be entitled to give; and last but
not least good wishes and good will. I might even call this little volume A
Book of Good Will toward Men. And so fit it not only for Christmas but
for all other seasons as well.
If it shall add to your joy in Christmas, dear
reader, and better still, if it shall move you to add to the joy of some
one else at Christmas-tide or in any other season, I shall be well repaid
for my efforts and incidentally you will also be repaid for your purchase.
The Hemlocks, Park Hill, Yonkers, N.Y. 1917
NOTE OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The author is in debt to his long-time and greatly
beloved friend the Rev. Alsop Leffingwell for the beautiful musical
setting of the little carol which this book contains.
There was a time when the spirit of Christmas was of the present. There is
a period when most of it is of the past. There shall come a day perhaps
when all of it will be of the future. The child time, the present; the
middle years, the past; old age, the future.
Come to my mind Christmas Days of long ago. As a boy
again I enter into the spirit of the Christmas stockings hanging before my
fire. I know what the children think to-day. I recall what they feel.
Passes childhood, and I look down the nearer years.
There rise before me remembrances of Christmas Days on storm-tossed seas,
where waves beat upon the ice-bound ship. I recall again the bitter touch
of water-warping winter, of drifts of snow, of wind-swept plains. In the
gamut of my remembrance I am once more in the poor, mean, lonely little
sanctuary out on the prairie, with a handful of Christians, mostly women,
gathered together in the freezing, draughty building. In later years I
worship in the great cathedral church, ablaze with lights, verdant and
fragrant with the evergreen pines, echoing with joyful carols and
celestial harmonies. My recollections are of contrasts like those of
life—joy and sadness, poverty and ease.
And the pictures are full of faces, many of which
may be seen no more by earthly vision. I miss the clasp of vanished hands,
I crave the sound of voices stilled. As we old and older grow, there is a
note of sadness in our glee. Whether we will or not we must twine the
cypress with the holly. The recollection of each passing year brings
deeper regret. How many have gone from those circles that we recall when
we were children? How many little feet that pattered upon the stair on
Christmas morning now tread softer paths and walk in broader ways; sisters
and brothers who used to come back from the far countries to the old
home—alas, they cannot come from the farther country in which they now
are, and perhaps, saddest thought of all, we would not wish them to come
again. How many, with whom we joined hands around the Christmas tree, have
Circles are broken, families are separated, loved
ones are lost, but the old world sweeps on. Others come to take our
places. As we stood at the knee of some unforgotten mother, so other
children stand. As we listened to the story of the Christ Child from the
lips of some grey old father, so other children listen and we ourselves
perchance are fathers or mothers too. Other groups come to us for the
deathless story. Little heads which recall vanished halcyon days of youth
bend around another younger mother. Smaller hands than ours write letters
to Santa Claus and hear the story, the sweetest story ever told, of the
Baby who came to Mary and through her to all the daughters and sons of
women on that winter night on the Bethlehem hills.
And we thank God for the children who take us out of
the past, out of ourselves, away from recollections that weigh us down;
the children that weave in the woof and warp of life when our own youth
has passed, some of the buoyancy, the joy, the happiness of the present;
the children in whose opening lives we turn hopefully to the future. We
thank God at this Christmas season that it pleased Him to send His beloved
Son to come to us as a little child, like any other child. We thank God
that in the lesser sense we may see in every child who comes to-day
another incarnation of divinity. We thank God for the portion of His
Spirit with which He dowers every child of man, just as we thank Him for
pouring it all upon the Infant in the Manger.
There is no age that has not had its prophet. No
country, no people, but that has produced its leader. But did any of them
ever before come as a little child? Did any of them begin to lead while
yet in arms? Lodges there upon any other baby brow "the round and top
of sovereignty?" What distinguished Christ and His Christian
followers from all the world? Behold! no mighty monarch, but "a
little child shall lead them!"
You may see through the glass darkly, you may not
know or understand the blessedness of faith in Him as He would have you
know it, but there is nothing that can dim the light that radiates from
that birth in the rude cave back of the inn. Ah, it pierces through the
darkness of that shrouding night. It shines to-day. Still sparkles the
Star in the East. He is that Star.
There is nothing that can take from mankind—even
doubting mankind—the spirit of Christ and the Christmas season. Our
celebrations do not rest upon the conclusions of logic, or the
demonstrations of philosophy; I would not even argue that they depend
inevitably or absolutely upon the possession of a certain faith in Jesus,
but we accept Christmas, nevertheless; we endeavour to apply the Christmas
spirit, for just once in the year; it may be because we cannot, try as we
may, crush out utterly and entirely the divinity that is in us that makes
for God. The stories and tales for Christmas which have for their theme
the hard heart softened are not mere fictions of the imagination. They
rest upon an instinctive consciousness of a profound philosophic truth.
What is the unpardonable sin, I wonder? Is it to be
persistently and forever unkind? Does it mean perhaps the absolute refusal
to accept the principle of love which is indeed creation's final law? The
lessons of the Christmastide are so many; the appeals that now may be made
to humanity crowd to the lips from full minds and fuller hearts. Might we
not reduce them all to the explication of the underlying principle of
God's purpose to us, as expressed in those themic words of love with which
angels and men greeted the advent of the Child on the first Christmas
morning, "Good will toward men?"
Let us then show our good will toward men by doing
good and bringing happiness to someone—if not to everyone—at this
Christmas season. Put aside the memories of disappointments, of sorrows
that have not vanished, of cares that still burden, and do good in spite
of them because you would not dim the brightness of the present for any
human heart with the shadows of old regrets. Do good because of a future
which opens possibilities before you, for others, if not for yourselves.
Brethren, friends, all, let us make up our minds
that we will be kindly affectioned one to another in our homes and out of
them, on this approaching Christmas day. That the old debate, the ancient
strife, the rankling recollection, the sharp contention, shall be put
aside, that "envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness"
shall be done away with. Let us forgive and forget; but if we cannot
forget let us at least forgive. And so let there be peace between man and
man at Christmas—a truce of God.
Let us pray that Love shall come as a little child
to our households. That He shall be in our hearts and shall find His
expression in all that we do or say on this birthday of goodness and cheer
for the world. Then let us resolve that the spirit of the day shall be
carried out through our lives, that as Christ did not come for an hour,
but for a lifetime, we would fain become as little children on this day of
days that we may begin a new life of good will to men.
Let us make this a new birthday of kindness and love
that shall endure. That is a Christmas hope, a Christmas wish. Let us give
to it the gracious expression of life among men.
FROM A FAR COUNTRY
Being a New Variation of an Ancient Theme
A STORY FOR GROWN-UPS
"A certain man had two sons"—so
begins the best and most famous story in the world's literature. Use of
the absolute superlative is always dangerous, but none will gainsay that
statement, I am sure. This story, which follows that familiar tale afar
off, indeed, begins in the same way. And the parallelism between the two
is exact up to a certain point. What difference a little point doth make;
like the little fire, behold, how great a matter it kindleth! Indeed,
lacking that one detail the older story would have had no value; it would
not have been told; without its addition this would have been a repetition
of the other.
When the modern young prodigal came to himself, when
he found himself no longer able to endure the husks of the swine like his
ancient exemplar, when he rose and returned to his father because of that
distaste, he found no father watching and waiting for him at the end of
the road! Upon that change the action of this story hangs. It was a pity,
too, because the elder brother was there and in a mood not unlike that of
his famous prototype.
Indeed, there was added to that elder brother's
natural resentment at the younger's course the blinding power of a great
sorrow, for the father of the two sons was dead. He had died of a broken
heart. Possessed of no omniscience of mind or vision, he had been unable
to foresee the long delayed turning point in the career of his younger son
and death came too swiftly to enable them to meet again. So long as he had
strength, that father had stood, as it were, at the top of the hill
looking down the road watching and hoping.
And but the day before the tardy prodigal's return
he had been laid away with his own fathers in the God's acre around the
village church in the Pennsylvania hills. Therefore there was no fatted
calf ready for the disillusioned youth whose waywardness had killed his
father. It will be remembered that the original elder brother objected
seriously to fatted calves on such occasions. Indeed, the funeral baked
meats would coldly furnish forth a welcoming meal if any such were called
For all his waywardness, for all his self-will, the
younger son had loved his father well, and it was a terrible shock to him
(having come to his senses) to find that he had returned too late. And for
all his hardness and narrowness the eldest son also had loved his father
well—strong tribute to the quality of the dead parent—and when he
found himself bereft he naturally visited wrath upon the head of him who
he believed rightly was the cause of the untimely death of the old man.
As he sat in the study, if such it might be called,
of the departed, before the old-fashioned desk with its household and farm
and business accounts, which in their order and method and long use were
eloquent of his provident and farseeing father, his heart was hot within
his breast. Grief and resentment alike gnawed at his vitals. They had
received vivid reports, even in the little town in which they dwelt, of
the wild doings of the wanderer, but they had enjoyed no direct
communication with him. After a while even rumour ceased to busy itself
with the doings of the youth. He had dropped out of their lives utterly
after he passed over the hills and far away.
The father had failed slowly for a time, only to
break suddenly and swiftly in the end. And the hurried frantic search for
the missing had brought no results. Ironically the god of chance had led
the young man's repentant footsteps to the door too late.
"Where's father?" cried John Carstairs to
the startled woman who stared at him as if she had seen a ghost as, at his
knock, she opened the door which he had found locked, not against him, but
the hour was late and it was the usual nightly precaution:
"Your brother is in your father's study,
sir," faltered the servant at last.
"Umph! Will," said the man, his face
changing. "I'd rather see father first."
"I think you had better see Mr. William,
"What's the matter, Janet?" asked young
Carstairs anxiously. "Is father ill?"
"Yes, sir! indeed I think you had bettor see
Mr. William at once, Mr. John."
Strangely moved by the obvious agitation of the
ancient servitor of the house who had known him from childhood, John
Carstairs hurried down the long hall to the door of his father's study.
Always a scapegrace, generally in difficulties, full of mischief, he had
approached that door many times in fear of well merited punishment which
was sure to be meted out to him. And he came to it with the old familiar
apprehension that night, if from a different cause. He never dreamed that
his father was anything but ill. He must see his brother. He stood in no
little awe of that brother, who was his exact antithesis in almost
everything. They had not got along particularly well. If his father had
been inside the door he would have hesitated with his hand on the knob. If
his father had not been ill he would not have attempted to face his
brother. But his anxiety, which was increased by a sudden foreboding, for
Janet, the maid, had looked at him so strangely, moved him to quick
action. He threw the door open instantly. What he saw did not reassure
him. William was clad in funeral black. He wore a long frock coat instead
of the usual knockabout suit he affected on the farm. His face was white
and haggard. There was an instant interchange of names.
"Is father ill?" burst out the younger.
"Dead!" interposed William harshly, all
his indignation flaming into speech and action as he confronted the cause
of the disaster.
"Dead! Good God!"
"God had nothing to do with it."
"You did it."
"Yes. Your drunken revelry, your reckless
extravagance, your dissipation with women, your unfeeling silence,
"Stop!" cried the younger. "I have
come to my senses, I can't bear it."
"I'll say it if it kills you. You did it, I
repeat. He longed and prayed and waited and you didn't come. You didn't
write. We could hear nothing. The best father on earth."
The younger man sank down in a chair and covered his
face with his hands.
"When?" he gasped out finally.
"Three days ago."
"And have you—"
"He is buried beside mother in the churchyard
yonder. Now that you are here I thank God that he didn't live to see what
you have become."
The respectable elder brother's glance took in the
disreputable younger, his once handsome face marred—one doesn't
foregather with swine in the sty without acquiring marks of the
association—his clothing in rags. Thus errant youth, that was youth no
longer, came back from that far country. Under such circumstances one
generally has to walk most of the way. He had often heard the chimes at
midnight, sleeping coldly in the straw stack of the fields, and the dust
of the road clung to his person. Through his broken shoes his bare feet
showed, and he trembled visibly as the other confronted him, partly from
hunger and weakness and shattered nerves, and partly from shame and horror
and for what reason God only knew.
The tall, handsome man in the long black coat, who
towered over him so grimly stern, was two years older than he, yet to the
casual observer the balance of time was against the prodigal by at least a
dozen years. However, he was but faintly conscious of his older brother.
One word and one sentence rang in his ear. Indeed, they beat upon his
consciousness until he blanched and quivered beneath their onslaught.
"Dead—you did it!"
Yes, it was just. No mercy seasoned that justice in
the heart of either man. The weaker, self-accusing, sat silent with bowed
head, his conscience seconding the words of the stronger. The voice of the
elder ran on with growing, terrifying intensity.
"Please stop," interposed the younger. He
rose to his feet. "You are right, Will. You were always right and I
was always wrong. I did kill him. But you need not have told me with such
bitterness. I realized it the minute you said he was dead. It's true. And
yet I was honestly sorry. I came back to tell him so, to ask his
"When your money was gone."
"You can say that, too," answered the
other, wincing under the savage thrust. "It's as true as the rest
probably, but sometimes a man has to get down very low before he looks up.
It was that way with me. Well, I've had my share and I've had my fling.
I've no business here. Good-bye." He turned abruptly away.
"Don't add more folly to what you have already
done," returned William Carstairs, and with the beginnings of a
belated pity, he added, "stay here with me, there will be enough for
us both and—"
"Well, then," he drew out of his pocket a
roll of bills, "take these and when you want more—"
"Damn your money," burst out John
Carstairs, passionately. He struck the other's outstretched hand, and in
his surprise, William Carstairs let the bills scatter upon the floor.
"I don't want it—blood money. Father is dead. I've had mine. I'll
trouble you no more."
He turned and staggered out of the room. Now William
Carstairs was a proud man and John Carstairs had offended him deeply. He
believed all that he had said to his brother, yet there had been
developing a feeling of pity for him in his heart, and in his cold way he
had sought to express it. His magnanimity had been rejected with scorn. He
looked down at the scattered bills on the floor. Characteristically—for
he inherited his father's business ability without his heart—he stooped
over and picked them slowly up, thinking hard the while. He finally
decided that he would give his brother yet another chance for his father's
sake. After all, they were brethren. But the decision came too late. John
Carstairs had stood not on the order of his going, but had gone at once,
none staying him.
William Carstairs stood in the outer door, the light
from the hall behind him streaming out into the night. He could see
nothing. He called aloud, but there was no answer. He had no idea where
his younger brother had gone. If he had been a man of finer feeling or
quicker perception, perhaps if the positions of the two had been reversed
and he had been his younger brother, he might have guessed that John might
have been found beside the newest mound in the churchyard, had one sought
him there. But that idea did not come to William, and after staring into
the blackness for a long time, he reluctantly closed the door. Perhaps the
vagrant could be found in the morning.
No, there had been no father waiting for the
prodigal at the end of the road, and what a difference it had made to that
wanderer and vagabond!
We leave a blank line on the page and denote thereby
that ten years have passed. It was Christmas Eve, that is, it had been
Christmas Eve when the little children had gone to bed. Now midnight had
passed and it was already Christmas morning. In one of the greatest and
most splendid houses on the avenue two little children were nestled all
snug in their beds in a nursery. In an adjoining room sound sleep had
quieted the nerves of the usually vigilant and watchful nurse. But the
little children were wakeful. As always, visions of Santa Claus danced in
They were fearless children by nature and had been
trained without the use of bugaboos to keep them in the paths wherein they
should go. On this night of nights they had left the doors of their
nursery open. The older, a little girl of six, was startled, but not
alarmed, as she lay watchfully waiting, by a creaking sound as of an
opened door in the library below. She listened with a beating heart under
the coverlet; cause of agitation not fear, but hope. It might be, it must
be Santa Claus, she decided. Brother, aged four, was close at hand in his
own small crib. She got out of her bed softly so as not to disturb Santa
Claus, or—more important at the time—the nurse. She had an idea that
Saint Nicholas might not welcome a nurse, but she had no fear at all that
he would not be glad to see her.
Need for a decision confronted her. Should she
reserve the pleasure she expected to derive from the interview for herself
or should she share it with little brother? There was a certain risk in
arousing brother. He was apt to awaken clamant, vociferous. Still, she
resolved to try it. For one thing, it seemed so selfish to see Santa Claus
alone, and for another the adventure would be a little less timorous taken
Slipping her feet into her bedroom slippers and
covering her nightgown with a little blanket wrap, she tip-toed over to
brother's bed. Fortunately, he too was sleeping lightly, and for a like
reason. For a wonder she succeeded in arousing him without any outcry on
his part. He was instantly keenly, if quietly, alive to the situation and
its fascinating possibilities.
"You must be very quiet, John," she
whispered. "But I think Santa Claus is down in the library. We'll go
down and catch him."
Brother, as became the hardier male, disdained
further protection of his small but valiant person. Clad only in his
pajamas and his slippers, he followed sister out the door and down the
stair. They went hand in hand, greatly excited by the desperate adventure.
What proportion of the millions who dwelt in the
great city were children of tender years only statisticians can say, but
doubtless there were thousands of little hearts beating with anticipation
as the hearts of those children beat, and perhaps there may have been
others who were softly creeping downstairs to catch Santa Claus unawares
at that very moment.
One man at least was keenly conscious of one little
soul who, with absolutely nothing to warrant the expectation, nothing
reasonable on which to base joyous anticipation, had gone to bed thinking
of Santa Claus and hoping that, amidst equally deserving hundreds of
thousands of obscure children, this little mite in her cold, cheerless
garret might not be overlooked by the generous dispenser of joy. With the
sublime trust of childhood she had insisted upon hanging up her ragged
stocking. Santa Claus would have to be very careful indeed lest things
should drop through and clatter upon the floor. Her heart had beaten, too,
although she descended no stair in the great house. She, too, lay wakeful,
uneasy, watching, sleeping, drowsing, hoping. We may have some doubts
about the eternal springing of hope in the human breast save in the case
of childhood—thank God it is always verdant there!
Now few people get so low that they do not love
somebody, and I dare say that no people get so low that somebody does not
"Crackerjack," so called because of his
super-excellence in his chosen profession, was, or had been, a burglar and
thief; a very ancient and highly placed calling indeed. You doubtless
remember that two thieves comprised the sole companions and attendants of
the Greatest King upon the most famous throne in history. His sole court
at the culmination of His career. "Crackerjack" was no exception
to the general rule about loving and being beloved set forth above.
He loved the little lady whose tattered stocking
swung in the breeze from the cracked window. Also he loved the wretched
woman who with himself shared the honours of parentage to the poor but
hopeful mite who was also dreaming of Christmas and the morning. And his
love inspired him to action. Singular into what devious courses, utterly
unjustifiable, even so exalted and holy an emotion may lead fallible man.
Love—burglary! They do not belong naturally in association, yet slip
cold, need, and hunger in between and we may have explanation even if
there be no justification. Oh, Love, how many crimes are committed in thy
"Crackerjack" would hardly have chosen
Christmas eve for a thieving expedition if there had been any other
recourse. Unfortunately there was none. The burglar's profession, so far
as he had practised it, was undergoing a timely eclipse. Time was when it
had been lucrative, its rewards great. Then the law, which is no respecter
of professions of that kind, had got him. "Crackerjack" had but
recently returned from a protracted sojourn at an institution arranged by
the State in its paternalism for the reception and harbouring of such as
he. The pitiful dole with which the discharged prisoner had been unloaded
upon a world which had no welcome for him had been soon spent; even the
hideous prison-made clothes had been pawned, and some rags, which were yet
the rags of a free man, which had been preserved through the long period
of separation by his wife, gave him a poor shelter from the winter's cold.
That wife had been faithful to him. She had done the
best she could for herself and baby during the five years of the absence
of the bread winner, or in his case the bread taker would be the better
phrase. She had eagerly waited the hour of his release; her joy had been
soon turned to bitterness. The fact that he had been in prison had shut
every door against him and even closed the few that had been open to her.
The three pieces of human flotsam had been driven by the wind of adversity
and tossed. They knew not where to turn when jettisoned by society.
Came Christmas Eve. They had no money and no food
and no fire. Stop! The fire of love burned in the woman's heart, the fire
of hate in the man's. Prison life usually completes the education in shame
of the unfortunate men who are thrust there. This was before the days in
which humane men interested themselves in prisons and prisoners and strove
to awaken the world to its responsibilities to, as well as the
possibilities of, the convict.
But "Crackerjack" was a man of unusual
character. Poverty, remorse, drink, all the things that go to wreck men by
forcing them into evil courses had laid him low, and because he was a man
originally of education and ability, he had shone as a criminal. The same
force of character which made him super-burglar could change him from
criminal to man if by chance they could be enlisted in the endeavour.
He had involved the wife he had married in his
misfortunes. She had been a good woman, weaker than he, yet she stuck to
him. God chose the weak thing to rejuvenate the strong. In the prison he
had enjoyed abundant leisure for reflection. After he learned of the birth
of his daughter he determined to do differently when he was freed. Many
men determine, especially in the case of an ex-convict, but society
usually determines better—no, not better, but more strongly. Society had
different ideas. It was Brahministic in its religion. Caste? Yes, once a
criminal always a criminal.
"Old girl," said the broken man,
"it's no use. I've tried to be decent for your sake and the kid's,
but it can't be done. I can't get honest work. They've put the mark of
Cain on me. They can take the consequences. The kid's got to have some
Christmas; you've got to have food and drink and clothes and fire. God,
how cold it is! I'll go out and get some."
"Isn't there something else we can pawn?"
"Isn't there any work?"
"Work?" laughed the man bitterly.
"I've tramped the city over seeking it, and you, too. Now, I'm going
to get money—elsewhere."
"Where it's to be had."
"Oh, Jack, think."
"If I thought, I'd kill you and the kid and
"Perhaps that would be better," said the
woman simply. "There doesn't seem to be any place left for us."
"We haven't come to that yet," said the
man. "Society owes me a living and, by God, it's got to pay it to
It was an oft-repeated, widely held assertion,
whether fallacious or not each may determine for himself.
"I'm afraid," said the woman.
"You needn't be; nothing can be worse than this
He kissed her fiercely. Albeit she was thin and
haggard she was beautiful to him. Then he bent over his little girl. He
had not yet had sufficient time since his release to get very well
acquainted with her. She had been born while he was in prison, but it had
not taken any time at all for him to learn to love her. He stared at her a
moment. He bent to kiss her and then stopped. He might awaken her. It is
always best for the children of the very poor to sleep. He who sleeps
dines, runs the Spanish proverb. He turned and kissed the little ragged
stockings instead, and then he went out. He was going to play—was it
Santa Claus, indeed?
The strange, illogical, ironical god of chance, or
was it Providence acting through some careless maid, had left an area
window unlocked in the biggest and newest house on the avenue. Any house
would have been easy for "Crackerjack" if he had possessed the
open sesame of his kit of burglar's tools, but he had not had a jimmy in
his hand since he was caught with one and sent to Sing Sing. He had
examined house after house, trusting to luck as he wandered on, and, lo!
fortune favoured him.
The clock in a nearby church struck the hour of two.
The areaway was dark. No one was abroad. He plunged down the steps, opened
the window and disappeared. No man could move more noiselessly than he. In
the still night he knew how the slightest sounds are magnified. He had
made none as he groped his way through the back of the house, arriving at
last in a room which he judged to be the library. Then, after listening
and hearing nothing, he ventured to turn the button of a side light in a
far corner of the room.
He was in a large apartment, beautifully furnished.
Books and pictures abounded, but these did not interest him, although if
he had made further examination he might have found things worthy of his
attention even there. It so happened that the light bracket to which he
had blundered, or had been led, was immediately over a large wall safe.
Evidently it had been placed there for the purpose of illuminating the
safe door. His eyes told him that instantly. This was greater fortune than
he expected. A wall safe in a house like that must contain things of
Marking the position of the combination knob, he
turned out the light and waited again. The quiet of the night continued
unbroken. A swift inspection convinced him that the lock was only an
ordinary combination. With proper—or improper—tools he could have
opened it easily. Even without tools, such were his delicately trained ear
and his wonderfully trained fingers that he thought he could feel and hear
the combination. He knelt down by the knob and began to turn it slowly,
listening and feeling for the fall of the tumblers. Several times he
almost got it, only to fail at the end, but by repeated trials and
unexampled patience, his heart beating like a trip-hammer the while, he
finally mastered the combination and opened the safe door.
In his excitement when he felt the door move he
swung it outward sharply. It had not been used for some time evidently and
the hinges creaked. He checked the door and listened again. Was he to be
balked after so much success? He was greatly relieved at the absence of
sound. It was quite dark in the room. He could see nothing but the safe.
He reached his hand in and discovered it was filled with bulky articles
covered with some kind of cloth, silver evidently.
He decided that he must have a look and again he
switched on the light. Yes, his surmise had been correct. The safe was
filled with silver. There was a small steel drawer in the middle of it. He
had a broad bladed jack-knife in his pocket and at the risk of snapping
the blade he forced the lock and drew out the drawer. It was filled with
papers. He lifted the first one and stood staring at it in astonishment,
for it was an envelope which bore his name, written by a hand which had
long since mouldered away in the dust of a grave.
Before he could open the envelope, there broke on
his ear a still small voice, not that of conscience, not that of God; the
voice of a child—but does not God speak perhaps as often through the
lips of childhood as in any other way—and conscience, too?
"Are you Santa Claus?" the voice whispered
in his ear.
"Crackerjack" dropped the paper and turned
like a flash, knife upraised in his clenched hand, to confront a very
little girl and a still smaller boy staring at him in open-eyed
astonishment, an astonishment which was without any vestige of alarm. He
looked down at the two and they looked up at him, equal bewilderment on
"I sought dat Santy Claus tame down de
chimney," said the younger of the twain, whose pajamas bespoke the
"In all the books he has a long white beard.
Where's yours?" asked the coming woman.
This innocent question no less than the unaffected
simplicity and sincerity of the questioner overpowered
"Crackerjack." He sank back into a convenient chair and stared
at the imperturbable pair. There was a strange and wonderful likeness in
the sweet-faced golden-haired little girl before him to the worn, haggard,
and ill-clad little girl who lay shivering in the mean bed in the upper
room where God was not—or so he fancied.
"You're a little girl, aren't you?" he
No voice had been or was raised above a whisper. It
was a witching hour and its spell was upon them all.
"What is your name?"
Now Helen had been "Crackerjack's"
mother's name and it was the name of his own little girl, and although
everybody else called her Nell, to him she was always Helen.
"And my name's John," volunteered the
"John!" That was extraordinary!
"What's your other name?"
The man stared again. Could this be coincidence
merely? John was his own name and William that of his brother.
"I mean what is your last name?"
"Carstairs," answered the little girl.
"Now you tell us who you are. You aren't Santa Claus, are you? I
don't hear any reindeers outside, or bells, and you haven't any pack, and
you're not by the fireplace where our stockings are."
"I sought dat Santy Claus tame down de chimney," said the
younger of the twain.
"No," said the man, "I'm not exactly
Santa Claus, I'm his friend—I—"
What should he say to these children? In his
bewilderment for the moment he actually forgot the letter which he still
held tightly in his hand.
"Dat's muvver's safe," continued the
little boy. "She keeps lots o' things in it. It's all hers but dat
drawer. Dat's papa's and—"
"I think I hear some one on the stairs,"
broke in the little girl suddenly in great excitement. "Maybe that's
"Perhaps it is," said the man, who had
also heard. "You wait and watch for him. I'll go outside and attend
to his reindeer."
He made a movement to withdraw, but the girl caught
him tightly by the hand.
"If you are his friend," she said,
"you can introduce us. You know our names and—"
The golden opportunity was gone.
"Don't say a word," whispered the man
quickly. "We'll surprise him. Be very still."
He reached his hand up and turned out the light. He
half hoped he might be mistaken, or that in the darkness they would not be
seen, but no. They all heard the footsteps on the stair. They came down
slowly, and it was evident that whoever was approaching was using every
precaution not to be heard. "Crackerjack" was in a frightful
situation. He did not know whether to jerk himself away from the two
children, for the boy had clasped him around the leg and the girl still
held his hand, or whether to wait.
The power of decision suddenly left him, for the
steps stopped before the door. There was a little click as a hand pressed
a button on the wall and the whole room was flooded with light from the
great electrolier in the centre. Well, the game was up.
"Crackerjack" had been crouching low with the children. He rose
to his feet and looked straightly enough into the barrel of a pistol held
by a tall, severe looking man in a rich silk dressing robe, who confronted
him in the doorway. Two words broke from the lips of the two men, the same
words that had fallen from their lips when they met ten years before.
"John!" cried the elder man, laying the
weapon on a nearby table.
"Will!" answered "Crackerjack"
in the same breath.
As if to mark the eternal difference as before, the
one was clothed in habiliments of wealth and luxury, the other in the rags
and tatters of poverty and shame.
"Why, that isn't Santa Claus," instantly
burst out the little girl, "that's papa."
"Dis is Santy Claus's friend, papa," said
the little boy. "We were doin' to su'prise him. He said be very still
and we minded."
"So this is what you have come to, John,"
said the elder man, but there was an unwonted gentleness in his voice.
"I swear to God I didn't know it was your
house. I just came in here because the window was open."
The other pointed to the safe.
"But you were—"
"Of course I was. You don't suppose I wandered
in for fun, do you? I've got a little girl of my own, and her name's
Helen, too; our mother's name."
The other brother nodded.
"She's hungry and cold and there's no Christmas
for her or her mother."
"Oh, Santy has been here already," cried
Master John Williams, running toward the great fireplace, having just that
moment discovered the bulging stockings and piles of gifts. His sister
made a move in the same direction, for at the other corner hung her
stocking and beneath it her pile, but the man's hand unconsciously
tightened upon her hand and she stopped.
"I'll stay with you," she said, after a
moment of hesitation. "Tell me more about your Helen."
"There's nothing to tell." He released her
hand roughly. "You musn't touch me," he added harshly.
"You needn't go, my dear," said her father
quickly. "Indeed, I think, perhaps—"
"Is your Helen very poor?" quietly asked
the little girl, possessing herself of his hand again, "because if
she is she can have"—she looked over at the pile of
toys—"Well, I'll see. I'll give her lots of things, and—"
"What's this?" broke out the younger man
harshly, extending his hand with the letter in it toward the other.
"It is a letter to you from our father."
"And you kept it from me?" cried the
"Read it," said William Carstairs.
With trembling hands "Crackerjack" tore it
open. It was a message of love and forgiveness penned by a dying hand.
"If I had had this then I might have been a
different man," said the poor wretch.
"There is another paper under it, or there
should be, in the same drawer," went on William Carstairs,
imperturbably. "Perhaps you would better read that."
John Carstairs needed no second invitation. He
turned to the open drawer and took out the next paper. It was a copy of a
will. The farm and business had been left to William, but one half of it
was to be held in trust for his brother. The man read it and then he
crushed the paper in his hand.
"And that, too, might have saved me. My
God!" he cried, "I've been a drunken blackguard. I've gone down
to the very depths. I have been in State's prison. I was, I am, a thief,
but I never would have withheld a dying man's forgiveness from his son. I
never would have kept a poor wretch who was crazy with shame and who drank
himself into crime out of his share of the property."
Animated by a certain fell purpose, he leaped across
the room and seized the pistol.
"Yes, and I have you now!" he cried.
"I'll make you pay."
He levelled the weapon at his brother with a steady
"What are you doin' to do wif that
pistol?" said young John William, curiously looking up from his
stocking, while Helen cried out. The little woman acted the better part.
With rare intuition she came quickly and took the left hand of the man and
patted it gently. For one thing, her father was not afraid, and that
reassured her. John Carstairs threw the pistol down again. William
Carstairs had never moved.
"Now," he said, "let me
"Can you explain away this?"
"I can. Father's will was not opened until the
day after you left. As God is my judge I did not know he had written to
you. I did not know he had left anything to you. I left no stone unturned
in an endeavour to find you. I employed the best detectives in the land,
but we found no trace of you whatever. Why, John, I have only been sorry
once that I let you go that night, that I spoke those words to you, and
that has been all the time."
"And where does this come from?" said the
man, flinging his arm up and confronting the magnificent room.
"It came from the old farm. There was oil on it
and I sold it for a great price. I was happily married. I came here and
have been successful in business. Half of it all is yours."
"I won't take it."
"John," said William Carstairs, "I
offered you money once and you struck it out of my hand. You
"What I am offering you now is your own. You
can't strike it out of my hand. It is not mine, but yours."
"I won't have it," protested the man.
"It's too late. You don't know what I've been, a common thief.
'Crackerjack' is my name. Every policeman and detective in New York knows
"But you've got a little Helen, too, haven't
you?" interposed the little girl with wisdom and tact beyond her
"And you said she was very poor and had no
"For her sake, John," said William
Carstairs. "Indeed you must not think you have been punished alone. I
have been punished, too. I'll help you begin again. Here"—he
stepped closer to his brother—"is my hand."
The other stared at it uncomprehendingly.
"There is nothing in it now but affection.
Won't you take it?"
Slowly John Carstairs lifted his hand. His palm met
that of his elder brother. He was so hungry and so weak and so overcome
that he swayed a little. His head bowed, his body shook and the elder
brother put his arm around him and drew him close.
Into the room came William Carstairs' wife. She,
too, had at last been aroused by the conversation, and, missing her
husband, she had thrown a wrapper about her and had come down to seek him.
"We tame down to find Santy Claus," burst
out young John William, at the sight of her, "and he's been here,
Yes, Santa Claus had indeed been there. The boy
spoke better than he knew.
"And this," said little Helen eagerly,
pointing proudly to her new acquaintance, "is a friend of his, and he
knows papa and he's got a little Helen and we're going to give her a Merry
William Carstairs had no secrets from his wife. With
a flash of womanly intuition, although she could not understand how he
came to be there, she divined who this strange guest was who looked a
pale, weak picture of her strong and splendid husband, and yet she must
have final assurance.
"Who is this gentleman, William?" she
asked quietly, and John Carstairs was forever grateful to her for her word
"This," said William Carstairs, "is
my father's son, my brother, who was dead and is alive again, and was lost
and is found."
And so, as it began with the beginning, this story
ends with the ending of the best and most famous of all the stories that
were ever told.
ON CHRISTMAS GIVING
Being a Word of Much Needed Advice
Christmas is the birthday of our Lord, upon which we
celebrate God's ineffable gift of Himself to His children. No human soul
has ever been able to realize the full significance of that gift, no heart
has ever been glad enough to contain the joy of it, and no mind has ever
been wise enough to express it. Nevertheless we powerfully appreciate the
blessing and would fain convey it fitly. Therefore to commemorate that
great gift the custom of exchanging tokens of love and remembrance has
grown until it has become well nigh universal. This is a day in which we
ourselves crave, as never at any other time, happiness and peace for those
we love and that ought to include everybody, for with the angelic message
in our ears it should be impossible to hate any one on Christmas day
however we may feel before or after.
But despite the best of wills almost inevitably
Christmas in many instances has created a burdensome demand. Perhaps by
the method of exclusion we shall find out what Christmas should be. It is
not a time for extravagance, for ostentation, for vulgar display, it is
possible to purchase pleasure for someone else at too high a price to
ourselves. To paraphrase Polonius, "Costly thy gift as thy purse can
buy, rich but not expressed in fancy, for the gift oft proclaims the
man." In making presents observe three principal facts; the length of
your purse, the character of your friend, and the universal rule of good
taste. Do not plunge into extravagance from which you will scarcely
recover except in months of nervous strain and desperate financial
struggle. On the other hand do not be mean and niggardly in your gifts.
Oh, not that; avoid selfishness at Christmas, if at no other time. Rather
no gift at all than a grudging one. Let your offerings represent
yourselves and your affections. Indeed if they do not represent you, they
are not gifts at all. "The gift without the giver is bare."
And above all banish from your mind the principle of
reciprocity. The lex talionis has no place in Christmas giving. Do
not think or feel that you must give to someone because someone gave to
you. There is no barter about it. You give because you love and without a
thought of return. Credit others with the same feeling and be governed
thereby. I know one upon whose Christmas list there are over one hundred
and fifty people, rich and poor, high and low, able and not able. That man
would be dismayed beyond measure if everyone of those people felt obliged
to make a return for the Christmas remembrances he so gladly sends them.
In giving remember after all the cardinal principle
of the day. Let your gift be an expression of your kindly remembrance,
your gentle consideration, your joyful spirit, your spontaneous gratitude,
your abiding desire for peace and goodwill toward men. Hunt up somebody
who needs and who without you may lack and suffer heart hunger,
loneliness, and disappointment.
Nor is Christmas a time for gluttonous eating and
drinking. To gorge one's self with quantities of rich and indigestible
food is not the noblest method of commemorating the day. The rules and
laws of digestion are not abrogated upon the Holy day. These are material
cautions, the day has a spiritual significance of which material
manifestations are, or ought to be, outward and visible expressions only.
Christmas is one of the great days of obligation in
the Church year, then as at Easter if at no other time, Christians should
gather around the table of the Lord, kneeling before God's altar in the
ministering of that Holy Communion which unites them with the past, the
present, and the future—the communion of the saints of God's Holy Church
with His Beloved Son. Then and thus in body, soul, and spirit we do truly
participate in the privilege and blessing of the Incarnation, then and
there we receive that strength which enables everyone of us to become
factors in the great extension of that marvellous occurrence throughout
the ages and throughout the world.
Let us therefore on this Holy Natal Day, from which
the whole world dates its time, begin on our knees before that altar which
is at once manger, cross, throne. Let us join thereafter in holy cheer of
praise and prayer and exhortation and Christmas carol, and then let us go
forth with a Christmas spirit in our hearts resolved to communicate it to
the children of men, and not merely for the day but for the future. To
make the right use of these our privileges, this it is to save the world.
In this spirit, therefore, so far as poor, fallible
human nature permits him to realize it and exhibit it, the author wishes
all his readers which at present comprise his only flock—
A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
IT WAS THE SAME CHRISTMAS MORNING
In Which it is Shown how
Different the Same Things may Be
A Story for Girls
In Philadelphia the rich and the poor live cheek by
jowl—or rather, back to back. Between the streets of the rich and
parallel to them, run the alleys of the poor. The rich man's garage
jostles elbows with the poor man's dwelling.
In a big house fronting on one of the most
fashionable streets lived a little girl named Ethel. Other people lived in
the big house also, a father, a mother, a butler, a French maid, and a
host of other servants. Back of the big house was the garage. Facing the
garage on the other side of the alley was a little, old
one-story-and-a-half brick house. In this house dwelt a little girl named
Maggie. With her lived her father who was a labourer; her mother, who took
in washing; and half a dozen brothers, four of whom worked at something or
other, while the two littlest went to school.
Ethel and Maggie never played together. Their
acquaintance was simply a bowing one—better perhaps, a smiling one. From
one window in the big playroom which was so far to one side of the house
that Ethel could see past the garage and get a glimpse of the window of
the living-room in Maggie's house, the two little girls at first stared at
each other. One day Maggie nodded and smiled, then Ethel, feeling very
much frightened, for she had been cautioned against playing with or
noticing the children in the alley, nodded and smiled back. Now neither of
the children felt happy unless they had held a pantomimic conversation
from window to window at some time during the day.
It was Christmas morning. Ethel awoke very early, as
all properly organized children do on that day at least. She had a
beautiful room in which she slept alone. Adjacent to it, in another room
almost as beautiful, slept Celeste, her mamma's French maid. Ethel had
been exquisitely trained. She lay awake a long time before making a sound
or movement, wishing it were time to arise. But Christmas was strong upon
her, the infection of the season was in her blood. Presently she slipped
softly out of bed, pattered across the room, paused at the door which gave
entrance to the hall which led to her mother's apartments, then turned and
plumped down upon Celeste.
"Merry Christmas," she cried shaking the
To awaken Celeste was a task of some difficulty.
Ordinarily the French woman would have been indignant at being thus
summarily routed out before the appointed hour but something of the spirit
of Christmas had touched her as well. She answered the salutation of the
little girl kindly enough, but as she sat up in bed she lifted a reproving
"But," she said, "you mus' keep ze
silence, Mademoiselle Ethel. Madame, vôtre maman, she say she mus' not be
disturb' in ze morning. She haf been out ver' late in ze night and she haf
go to ze bed ver' early. She say you mus' be ver' quiet on ze Matin de Noël!"
"I will be quiet, Celeste," answered the
little girl, her lip quivering at the injunction.
It was so hard to be repressed all the time but
especially on Christmas Day of all others.
"Zen I will help you to dress immediatement,
and zen Villiam, he vill call us to see ze tree."
Never had the captious little girl been more docile,
more obedient. Dressing Ethel that morning was a pleasure to Celeste.
Scarcely had she completed the task and put on her own clothing when there
was a tap on the door.
"Vat is it?"
"Mornin', Miss Celeste," spoke a heavy
voice outside, a voice subdued to a decorous softness of tone, "if
you an' Miss Ethel are ready, the tree is lit, an'—"
"Ve air ready, Monsieur Villiam," answered
Celeste, throwing open the door dramatically.
Ethel opened her mouth to welcome the butler—for
if that solemn and portentous individual ever unbent it was to Miss Ethel,
whom in his heart of hearts he adored—but he placed a warning finger to
his lip and whispered in an awestruck voice:
"The master, your father, came in late last
night, Miss, an' he said there must be no noise or racket this
Ethel nodded sadly, her eyes filling at her
disappointment; William then marched down the hall with a stately
magnificence peculiar to butlers, and opened the door into the playroom.
He flung it wide and stood to one side like a grenadier, as Celeste and
Ethel entered. There was a gorgeous tree, beautifully trimmed. William had
bought the tree and Celeste's French taste had adorned it. It was a sight
to delight any child's eyes and the things strewn around it on the floor
were even more attractive. Everything that money could buy, that Celeste
and William could think of was there. Ethel's mother had given her maid
carte blanche to buy the child whatever she liked, and Ethel's father had
done the same with William. The two had pooled their issue and the result
was a toyshop dream. Ethel looked at the things in silence.
"How do you like it, Miss?" asked William
at last rather anxiously.
"Mademoiselle is not pleased?" questioned
the French woman.
"It—it—is lovely," faltered the little
"We haf selected zem ourselves."
"Didn't mamma—buy anything—or papa—or
"Zey tell us to get vatever you vould like and
nevair mind ze money."
"It was so good of you, I am sure," said
Ethel struggling valiantly against disappointment almost too great to
bear. "Everything is beautiful but—I—wish mamma or papa had—I
wish they were here—I'd like them to wish me a Merry Christmas."
The little lip trembled but the upper teeth came
down on it firmly. The child had courage. William looked at Celeste and
Celeste shrugged her shoulders, both knowing what was lacking.
"I am sure, Miss, that they do wish you a Merry
Christmas, an'"—the butler began bravely, but the situation was too
much for him. "There goes the master's bell," he said quickly
and turned and stalked out of the room gravely, although no bell had
"I am sure, Miss, that they do wish you a Merry Christmas."
"You may go, Celeste," said Ethel with a
dignity not unlike her mother's manner.
The maid shrugged her shoulders again, left the room
and closed the door. Everything was lovely, everything was there except
that personal touch which means so much even to the littlest girl. Ethel
was used to being cared for by others than her parents but it came
especially hard on her this morning. She turned, leaving the beautiful
things as they were placed about the tree, and walked to the end window
whence she could get a view of the little house beyond the garage over the
There was a Christmas tree in Maggie's house too. It
wouldn't have made a respectable branch for Ethel's tree, and the
trimmings were so cheap and poor that Celeste would have thrown them into
the waste basket immediately. There were a few common, cheap, perishable
little toys around the tree on the floor but to Maggie it was a glimpse of
heaven. She stood in her little white night-gown—no such thing as
dressing for her on Christmas morning—staring around her. The whole
family was grouped about her, even the littlest brothers, who went to
school because they were not big enough to work, forgot their own joy in
watching their little sister. Her father, her mother, the big boys all in
a state of more or less dishevelled undress stood around her, pointing out
first one thing and then another which they had been able to get for her
by denying themselves some of the necessities of life. Maggie was so happy
that her eyes brimmed, yet she did not cry. She laughed, she clapped her
hands, and kissed them all round and finally found herself, a big orange
in one hand, a tin trumpet in the other, perched upon her father's broad
shoulders leading a frantic march around the narrow confines of the
living-room. As she passed by the one window she caught a glimpse of the
alley. It had been snowing throughout the night and the ground was white.
"Oh," she screamed with delight, "let
me see the snow on Christmas morning."
Her father walked over to the window, parted the
cheap lace curtains, while Maggie clapped her hands gleefully at the
prospect. Presently she lifted her eyes and looked toward the other window
high up in the air, where Ethel stood, a mournful little figure. Maggie's
papa looked too. He knew how cheap and poor were the little gifts he had
bought for his daughter.
"I wish," he thought, "that she could
have some of the things that child up there has."
Maggie however was quite content. She smiled,
flourished her trumpet, waved her orange, but there was no answering smile
on Ethel's face now. Finally the wistful little girl in the big house
languidly waved her hand, and then Maggie was taken away to be dressed
lest she should catch cold after the mischief was done.
"I hope that she's having a nice
Christmas," said Maggie, referring to Ethel.
"I hope so too," answered her mother,
wishing that her little girl might have some of the beautiful gifts she
knew must be in the great house.
"Whatever she has," said Maggie,
gleefully, "she can't have any nicer Christmas than I have, that you
and papa and the boys gave me. I'm just as happy as I can be."
Over in the big house, Ethel was also wishing. She
was so unhappy since she had seen Maggie in the arms of her big, bearded
father, standing by the window, that she could control herself no longer.
She turned away and threw herself down on the floor in front of the tree
and buried her face in her hands bursting into tears.
It was Christmas morning and she was all alone.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
"Christmas Then and Now"
The Stars look
down On David's town, While angels sing in Winter night; The Shepherds pray, And far away The Wise Men follow guiding light. Little Christ Child By Mary Mild In Manger lies without the Inn; Of Man the Son, Yet God in One, To save the lost in World of Sin. Still stars look down On David's town And still the Christ Child dwells
with men, What thought give we To such as He, Or souls who live in Sin as then? Show we our love To Him above By offering others' grief to share; And Christmas cheer For all the year Bestow to lighten pain and care.
THE LONE SCOUT'S CHRISTMAS
Wherein is Set Forth the Courage and Resourcefulness of Youth
A Story for Boys
Every boy likes snow on Christmas Day, but there is
such a thing as too much of it. Henry Ives, alone in the long railroad
coach, stared out of the clouded windows at the whirling mass of snow with
feelings of dismay. It was the day before Christmas, almost Christmas Eve.
Henry did not feel any too happy, indeed he had hard work to keep down a
sob. His mother had died but a few weeks before and his father, the
captain of a freighter on the Great Lakes, had decided, very reluctantly,
to send him to his brother who had a big ranch in western Nebraska.
Henry had never seen his uncle or his aunt. He did
not know what kind of people they were. The loss of his mother had been a
terrible blow to him and to be separated from his father had filled his
cup of sorrow to the brim. His father's work did not end with the close of
navigation on the lakes, and he could not get away then although he
promised to come and see Henry before the ice broke and traffic was
resumed in the spring.
The long journey from the little Ohio town on Lake
Erie to western Nebraska had been without mishap. His uncle's ranch lay
far away from the main line of the railroad on the end of the branch.
There was but one train a day upon it, and that was a mixed train. The
coach in which Henry sat was attached to the end of a long string of
freight cars. Travel was infrequent in that section of the country. On
this day Henry was the only passenger.
The train had been going up-grade for many miles and
had just about reached the crest of the divide. Bucking the snow had
become more and more difficult; several times the train had stopped.
Sometimes the engine backed the train some distance to get headway to
burst through the drift. So Henry thought nothing of it when the car came
to a gentle stop.
The all-day storm blew from the west and the front
windows of the car were covered with snow so he could not see ahead. Some
time before the conductor and rear brakeman had gone forward to help dig
the engine out of the drift and they had not come back.
Henry sat in silence for some time watching the
whirling snow. He was sad; even the thought of the gifts of his father and
friends in his trunk which stood in the baggage compartment of the car did
not cheer him. More than all the Christmas gifts in the world, he wanted
at that time his mother and father and friends.
"It doesn't look as though it was going to be a
very merry Christmas for me," he said aloud at last, and then feeling
a little stiff from having sat still so long he got up and walked to the
front of the car.
It was warm and pleasant in the coach. The Baker
heater was going at full blast and Henry noticed that there was plenty of
coal. He tried to see out from the front door; but as he was too prudent
to open it and let in the snow and cold he could make out nothing. The
silence rather alarmed him. The train had never waited so long before.
Then, suddenly, came the thought that something very
unusual was wrong. He must get a look at the train ahead. He ran back to
the rear door, opened it and standing on the leeward side, peered forward.
The engine and freight cars were not there! All he saw was the deep cut
filled nearly to the height of the car with snow.
Henry was of a mechanical turn of mind and he
realized that doubtless the coupling had broken. That was what had
happened. The trainmen had not noticed it and the train had gone on and
left the coach. The break had occurred at the crest of the divide and the
train had gone rapidly down hill on the other side. The amount of snow
told the boy that it would not be possible for the train to back up and
pick up the car. He was alone in the wilderness of rolling hills in far
western Nebraska. And this was Christmas Eve!
It was enough to bring despair to any boy's heart.
But Henry Ives was made of good stuff, he was a first-class Boy Scout and
on his scout coat in the trunk were four Merit Badges. He had the spirit
of his father, who had often bucked the November storms on Lake Superior
in his great six-hundred-foot freighter, and danger inspired him.
He went back into the car, closed the door, and sat
down to think it over. He had very vague ideas as to how long such a storm
would last and how long he might be kept prisoner. He did not even know
just where he was or how far it was to the end of the road and the town
where his uncle's ranch lay.
It was growing dark so he lighted one of the lamps
close to the heater and had plenty of light. In doing so he noticed in the
baggage rack a dinner pail. He remembered that the conductor had told him
that his wife had packed that dinner pail and although it did not belong
to the boy he felt justified in appropriating it in such circumstances. It
was full of food—eggs, sandwiches, and a bottle of coffee. He was not
very hungry but he ate a sandwich. He was even getting cheerful about the
situation because he had something to do. It was an adventure.
While he had been eating, the storm had died away.
Now he discovered that it had stopped snowing. All around him the country
was a hilly, rolling prairie. The cut ran through a hill which seemed to
be higher than others in the neighbourhood. If he could get on top of it
he might see where he was. Although day was ending it was not yet dark and
Henry decided upon an exploration.
Now he could not walk on foot in that deep and
drifted snow without sinking over his head under ordinary conditions, but
his troop had done a great deal of winter work, and strapped alongside of
his big, telescope grip were a pair of snow-shoes which he himself had
made, and with the use of which he was thoroughly familiar.
"I mustn't spoil this new suit," he told
himself, so he ran to the baggage-room of the car, opened his trunk, got
out his Scout uniform and slipped into it in a jiffy. "Glad I ran in
that 'antelope dressing race,'" he muttered, "but I'll beat my
former record now." Over his khaki coat he put on his heavy sweater,
then donned his wool cap and gloves, and with his snow-shoes under his arm
hurried back to the rear platform. The snow was on a level with the
platform. It rose higher as the coach reached into the cut. He saw that he
would have to go down some distance before he could turn and attempt the
He had used his snow-shoes many times in play but
this was the first time they had ever been of real service to him.
Thrusting his toes into the straps he struck out boldly.
"Thrusting his toes into the straps he struck out boldly."
To his delight he got along without the slightest
difficulty although he strode with great care. He gained the level and in
ten minutes found himself on the top of the hill, where he could see miles
and miles of rolling prairie. He turned himself slowly about, to get a
view of the country.
As his glance swept the horizon, at first it did not
fall upon a single, solitary thing except a vast expanse of snow. There
was not a tree even. The awful loneliness filled him with dismay. He had
about given up when, in the last quarter of the horizon he saw, perhaps a
quarter of a mile away, what looked like a fine trickle of blackish smoke
that appeared to rise from a shapeless mound that bulged above the
"Smoke means fire, and fire means man," he
The sky was rapidly clearing. A few stars had
already appeared. Remembering what he had learned on camp and trail, he
took his bearing by the stars; he did not mean to get lost if he left that
hill. Looking back, he could see the car, the lamp of which sent broad
beams of light through the windows across the snow.
Then he plunged down the hill, thanking God in his
boyish heart for the snow-shoes and his knowledge of them.
It did not take him long to reach the mound whence
the smoke rose. It was a sod house, he found, built against a sharp knoll,
which no doubt formed its rear wall. The wind had drifted the snow,
leaving a half-open way to the door. Noiselessly the boy slipped down to
it, drew his feet from the snow-shoes and knocked. There was a burst of
sound inside. It made his heart jump, but he was reassured by the fact
that the voices were those of children. What they said he could not make
out; but, without further ado, he opened the door and entered.
It was a fairly large room. There were two beds in
it, a stove, a table, a chest of drawers and a few chairs. From one of the
beds three heads stared at him. As each head was covered with a wool cap,
drawn down over the ears, like his own, he could not make out who they
were. There were dishes on the table, but they were empty. The room was
cold, although it was evident that there was still a little fire in the
"Oh!" came from one of the heads in the
bed. "I thought you were my father. What is your name?"
"My name," answered the boy, "is
Henry Ives. I was left behind alone in the railroad car about a mile back,
and saw the smoke from your house and here I am."
"Have you brought us anything to burn?"
asked the second head.
"Or anything to eat?" questioned the
"My name is Mary Wright," said the first
speaker, "and these are my brothers George and Philip. Father went
away yesterday morning with the team, to get some coal and some food. He
went to Kiowa."
"That's where I am going," interrupted
"Yes," continued Mary, "I suppose he
can't get back because of the snow. It's an awful storm."
"We haven't anything to eat, and I don't know
when father will be back," said George.
"And it's Christmas Eve," wailed Philip,
who appeared to be about seven.
He set up a howl about this which his brother
George, who was about nine, had great difficulty in quieting.
"We put the last shovelful of coal in the
stove," said Mary Wright, "and got into bed to keep warm."
"I'll go outside while you get up and
dress," said Henry considerately, "and then we will try and get
to the car. It is warm there, and there is something to eat."
"You needn't go," said the girl; "we
are all dressed." She threw back the covers and sprang out of bed.
She was very pretty and about Henry's own age, he discovered, although she
was pale and haggard with cold and hunger.
"Goody, goody!" exclaimed little Philip,
as his feet landed on the floor. "Maybe we'll have some Christmas,
"Maybe we will," said Henry, smiling at
him. "At least we will have something to eat."
"Well, let's start right away then," urged
This brought Henry face to face with a dilemma.
"I have only one pair of snow-shoes," he said at last, "and
you probably don't know how to use them anyway, and you can't walk on the
"I have a sled," suggested George.
"That won't do," said Henry. "I've
got to have something that won't sink in the snow—that will lie flat, so
I can draw you along."
"How about that table?" said the girl.
"Good suggestion," cried Henry.
It was nothing but a common kitchen table. He turned
it upside down, took his Scout axe from its sheath, knocked the legs off,
fastened a piece of clothesline to the butts of two of them.
"Now if I could have something to turn up along
the front, so as not to dig into the snow," he said, "it would
be fine." He thought a moment. "Where is that sled of yours,
"Here," said George, dragging it forth.
The runners curved upwards. Henry cut them off, in spite of Philip's
protests. He nailed these runners to the front of the table and stretched
rope tightly across them so that he had four up-curves in front of the
"Now I want something to stretch on these
things, so as to let the sled ride over the snow, instead of digging into
it," he said to the girl.
She brought him her father's old
"slicker." Henry cut it into suitable shape and nailed and
lashed it securely to the runners and to the table top. Now he had a
flat-bottomed sled with a rising front to it that would serve. He smiled
as he looked at the queer contrivance and said aloud: "I wish Mr.
Lesher could see that!"
"Who is Mr. Lesher?" asked George.
"Oh, he's my Scoutmaster back in Ohio. Now come
He opened the door, drew the sled outside, pushed it
up on the snow and stepped on it. It bore his weight perfectly.
"It's all right," he cried. "But it
won't take all three of you at once."
"I'll wait," said Mary, "you take the
"Very well," said Henry.
"You'll surely come back for me?"
"Surely, and I think it's mighty brave of you
to stay behind. Now come on, boys," he said.
Leaving Mary filled with pleasure at such praise, he
put the two boys carefully into the sled, stepped into his snow-shoes and
dragged them rapidly across the prairie. It was quite dark now, but the
sky was clear and the stars were bright. The storm had completely stopped.
He remembered the bearings he had taken by the stars, and reached the high
hill without difficulty. Below him lay the car.
Presently he drew up before the platform. He put the
boys in the car, told them to go up to the fire and warm themselves and
not to touch anything. Then he went back for the girl.
"Did you think I was not coming?" he asked
as he re-entered the cabin.
"I knew you would come back," said the
girl and it was Henry's turn to tingle with pride.
He wrapped her up carefully, and fairly ran back to
the car. They found the boys warm and comfortable and greatly excited.
"If we just had a Christmas tree and Santa
Claus and something to eat and a drink of water and a place to
sleep," said the youngest boy, "it would be great fun."
"I am afraid we can't manage the Christmas
tree," said Henry, "but we can have everything else."
"Do you mean Santy?"
"Santy too," answered the boy. "First
of all, we will get something to eat."
"We haven't had anything since morning,"
said the girl. Henry divided the sandwiches into three portions. As it
happened, there were three hard-boiled eggs. He gave one portion to each
of his guests.
"You haven't left any for yourself," said
"I ate before I looked for you," answered
Henry, although the one sandwich had by no means satisfied his hunger.
"My, but this is good!" said George.
"Our mother is dead," said Mary Wright
after a pause, "and our father is awful poor. He has taken out a
homestead and we are trying to live on it until he gets it proved up. We
have had a very hard time since mother died."
"Yes, I know," said Henry, gravely;
"my mother died, too."
"I wonder what time it is?" asked the girl
Henry pulled out his watch. "It is after six
o'clock," he said.
"Say," broke in George, "that's a
funny kind of a uniform you've got on."
"It is a Boy Scout uniform."
"Oh, is it?" exclaimed George. "I
never saw one before. I wish I could be a Scout!"
"Maybe you can," answered Henry. "I
am going to organize a troop when I get to Kiowa. But now I'm going to fix
beds for you. Of course we are all sleepy after such a hard day."
He had seen the trainmen lift up the bottoms of the
seats and lay them lengthwise of the car. He did this, and soon made four
fairly comfortable beds. The two nearest the stove he gave to the boys. He
indicated the next one was for Mary, and the one further down toward the
middle of the car was for himself.
"You can all go to bed right away," he
said when he had made his preparations. The two boys decided to accept
this advice. Mary said she would stay up a little longer and talk with
"You can't undress," she said to the two
boys. "You'll have to sleep as you are." She sat down in one of
the car seats; Philip knelt down at one knee and George at the other. The
girl, who was barely fifteen had already taken her mother's place. She
laid her hand on each bent head and listened while one after the other the
boys said their prayers. She kissed them good-night, saw them comfortably
laid out on the big cushions with their overcoats for pillows and turned
"Say," began Philip, "you forgot
"What have I forgotten, dear?"
"Why, it's Christmas Eve and we must hang up
Mary threw up her hands. "I am afraid this is
too far away for Santa Claus. He won't know that we are out here,"
"Oh, I don't know," said Henry, thinking
rapidly, "let them hang them up."
Mary looked at him in surprise. "They haven't
any to hang up," she said. "We can't take those they're
"You should have thought of that," wailed
Philip, "before you brought us here."
"I have some extra ones in my bag," said
Henry. "We will hang them up."
He opened the bag and brought out three stockings,
one for each of his guests. He fastened them to the baggage racks above
the seats and watched the two boys contentedly close their eyes and go to
"They will be awfully disappointed when they
wake up in the morning and do not find anything in them," said Mary.
"They're going to find something in them,"
said Henry confidently.
He went to the end of the car, opened his trunk and
lifted out various packages which had been designed for him. Of course he
was going on sixteen, but there were some things that would do for Philip
and plenty of things for George and some good books that he had selected
himself that would do for Mary. Then there were candy and nuts and cakes
and oranges galore. Mary was even more excited than he was as they filled
the boys' stockings and arranged things that were too big to go in them.
"These are your own Christmas gifts, I
know," said the girl, "and you haven't hung up your
"I don't need to. I have had my Christmas
"And what is that?"
"A chance to make a merry Christmas for you and
your little brothers," answered Henry, and his heart was light.
"How long do you suppose we will have to stay
here?" asked the girl.
"I don't know. I suppose they will try to dig
us out to-morrow. Meanwhile we have nuts, oranges, crackers, and little
cakes, to say nothing of the candy, to live on. Now you go to bed and have
a good sleep."
"And what will you do?"
"I'll stay up for a while and read one of these
books and keep the fire going."
"You are awfully good to us," said Mary,
turning away. "You are just like a real Santa Claus."
"We have to help other people—especially
people in trouble," answered the boy. "It is one of the first
Scout rules. I am really glad I got left behind and found you.
The girl, whose experience that day had been hard,
soon fell asleep with her brothers. Henry did not feel sleepy at all; he
was bright and happy and rejoiced. This certainly was an adventure.
He wondered what Dick and Joe and Spike and the other fellows of his troop
would think when he wrote them about it. He did not realize that he had
saved the lives of the children, who would assuredly have frozen to death
in the cabin.
When he was satisfied that Mary was sound asleep, he
put some things in her stocking and then piled in the rack over her head
two books he thought the girl would like. It was late when he went to
sleep himself, happier than he had dreamed he could be.
He awoke once in the night to replenish the fire,
but he was sleeping soundly at seven o'clock in the morning when the door
of the car opened and half a dozen men filed in. They had not made any
noise. Even the big snow-plough tearing open the way from Kiowa had not
disturbed the four sleepers.
The first man in was the conductor. After the
trainmen had discovered that the coach had been left behind they had
managed to get into Kiowa and had started back at once with the rotary
plough to open the road and to rescue the boy. Henry's uncle had been in
town to meet Henry, and of course the trainmen let him go back with them
on the plough. The third man was Mr. Wright. He had been caught by the
storm and, as he said, the abandoned coach must be near his claim, he
asked to be taken along because he was afraid his children would be
freezing to death.
The men stopped and surveyed the sleeping boys and
girl. Their glances ranged from the children to the bulging stockings and
the pile of Christmas presents in the racks.
"Well, can you beat that?" said the
"By George!" exclaimed Rancher Ives,
"a regular Christmas layout!"
"These are my children safe and well, thank
God!" cried Mr. Wright.
"Boy," said the conductor, laying his hand
on Henry's shoulder, "we came to wish you a Merry Christmas."
"Father!" cried Mary Wright, awakened by
the voice, and the next minute she was in his arms, while she told him
rapidly what Henry had done for them all.
The boys were awake, too, but humanity had no
attraction for them.
"Santa has come!" shouted Philip making a
dive for his stocking.
"This is your uncle, Jim Ives," said the
conductor to Henry.
"And this is my father," said Mary in
"I am awfully sorry," said Henry to the
conductor, "but we had to eat your dinner. And I had to chop up your
kitchen table," he added, turning to Mr. Wright.
"I am glad there was something to eat in the
pail," said one.
"You could have chopped the cabin down,"
said the other.
"By George!" said the ranchman proudly.
"I wrote to your father to send you out here and we'd make a man of
you, but it seems to me you are a man already," he continued as Mary
Wright poured forth the story of their rescue.
"No, I am not a man," said Henry to his
uncle, as he flushed with pride at the hearty praise of these men. "I
am just a—"
"Just a what?" asked the conductor as the
"Why, just a Boy Scout," answered Henry.
LOOKING INTO THE MANGER
A Christmas Meditation
Christmas morning, the day we celebrate as the
anniversary of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the
obscure, little hill town of Bethlehem in the far-off Judæan land, over
nineteen hundred years ago!
It is said:
beggars die, there are no comets seen: The heavens themselves blaze forth
the death of princes."
What is true of the passing of kings is perhaps more
true of their coming; yet in this birth are singular contradictions. The
Child was born a beggar. There lacks no touch which even imagination could
supply to indicate the meanness of His earthly condition. Homeless, His
mother, save for the stable of the public inn—and words can hardly
describe any place more unsuited—was shelterless, unprotected, in that
hour of travail pain.
I love to let my imagination dwell upon that scene.
Sometimes I think wayfarers may have gathered in the tavern hard by and
with music and play sought to while away the hours as travellers have from
time immemorial. Perhaps in some pause in their merriment, a strange cry
of anguish, borne by the night wind from the rude shelter without, may
have stopped their revelry for a moment and one may have asked of another:
"What is that?"
The servant of the house who stood obsequious to
promote their pleasure may have answered apologetically:
"It is the cry of a woman of the people in
travail in the inn yard."
I can fancy their indifference to the answer, or I
can hear perhaps the rude jest, or the vulgar quip, with which such an
announcement may have been received, as the play or the music went on
Oh, yes, the world in solemn stillness lay,
doubtless, that winter night, but not the people in it. They pursued their
several vocations as usual. They loved or they hated, they worked or they
played, they hoped or they despaired, they dreamed or they achieved, just
as they had done throughout the centuries, just as they have done since
that day, just as they will do far into the future; although their little
God came to them, as never He came before, in the stable in the Bethlehem
hills that night.
And yet, had they but cast their eyes upward like
the wise men—it is always your wise man who casts his eyes
upward—they, too, might have seen the star that blazed overhead. It was
placed so high above the earth that all men everywhere could see to which
spot on the surface it pointed. Or, had they been devout men, they would
have listened for heavenly voices—it is always your devout man who tries
to hear other things than the babble of the Babel in which he
lives—they, too, could have heard the angelic chorus like the shepherds
in the fields and on the hillsides that frosty night.
For the heavens did blaze forth the birth of the
Child. Not with the thunder of guns, not with the blare of trumpets, not
with the beating of drums, not with the lighting of castle, village, and
town, the kindling of beacons upon the far-flung hills, the cry of
fast-riding messengers through the night, and the loud acclaim of
thousands which greet the coming of an earthly king, was He welcomed; but
by the still shining of a silent star and by the ineffable and
transcendent voices of an Angel Choir.
How long did the Shepherds listen to that chorus?
How long did it ring over the hills and far away? Whither went the Wise
Men? Into what dim distance vanished the star?
"Where are the roses of yesterday?
What has become of last year's snow?"
And the residuum of it all was a little Baby held to
a woman's breast in a miserable hovel in the most forlorn and detested
corner of the world. And yet to-day and at this hour, and at every hour
during the twenty-four, men are looking into that chamber; men are bowing
to that Child and His mother, and even that mother is at the feet of the
From the snow peaks of the North land, "from
Greenland's icy mountains to India's coral strand," and on and on
through all the burning tropics to the companion ice of the other pole,
the antarctic, and girdling the world from east to west as well, the
adoration continues. It comes alike from the world's noblest, from the
world's highest, from the world's truest, from the world's kindest, from
the world's poorest, from the world's humblest, from the world's best.
Do not even the soldiers in the trenches upon the
far-flung battle lines pause to listen, look to see as for a moment dies
away the cannonade? Do not even the sailors of war and trade peer across
the tossing waters of the great deep, longing for a truce of God if only
for an hour upon this winter morning?
"The world bows down to a Mother and her Child—and the Mother
herself is at the feet of the Child."
Yes, they all look into the manger as they look upon
the cross and if only for an instant this war reddened planet comes to
"see and believe." What keen vision saw in the Baby the
Son of God and the Son of Man? What simple faith can see these things in
Him now? "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing
which is come to pass."
That birth is known as the Incarnation. Ye know not
"how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child."
Life itself is insusceptible of any definition which satisfies, but we
know that we live, nevertheless. Science points out a common origin in
protoplasmic cells and is quite unable to explain so common a fact as sex
differentiation. I care not what methods of accounting for life you
propose, you yet have to refer it to the Author of all life "in
whom we live and move and have our being." Why, therefore, should
the Incarnation be thought incredible or impossible because it does not
come within the limitations of our present understanding and it is not
taught by our limited human experience. The sweet reasonableness of the
Incarnation, this conception by Divine power, this birth from the Virgin
mother, should appeal to all who think deeply on these subjects.
And yet perhaps the manner, place, and circumstance
of this birth may awaken wonder. Possibly you would have the King come as
other kings come, in pomp and circumstance, glory and majesty, with
heralds preceding, music playing, blossoms strewn, and people cheering.
Oh, no, that way did not seem the best way to the wisdom of God—a young
girl, an old man, in the stable, no other tendance, no luxury, no
comfort—poverty, humility, absolute.
Let us forget the Angel Chorus and the blazing star
and go now even unto Bethlehem and look into the manger at that Child,
while the uncomprehending cattle stare resentful perhaps at their
displacement. The King comes as a Child, as weak, as helpless, as vocal of
its pains as any other child. Not a Child of luxury, not a Child of
consequence, not a Child of comfort, but a Child of poverty; and in the
eyes of the blind world, if they had been privy to it, without the
glorious vision of the good man, Joseph, a Child of shame! If the world
had known that the Babe was not the Child of Joseph and Mary how it would
have mocked. What laughter, what jeers, what contempt, what obloquy, what
scorn would have been heaped upon the woman's head! Why the world would
heap them there now were it not that that portion of it which disbelieves
in the Incarnation, says that Joseph was after all the father of the
Nor shall we go down to Bethlehem alone. The poor,
ignorant shepherds came to the cradle that night. They could understand.
It did not seem strange to them that their God was poor, for they
themselves were poor. I wonder how much the shepherds reflected. Theirs is
a profession which gives rise to thought; they are much alone in the waste
places with the gentlest of God's creatures. Their paths lead by green
pastures and still waters; they enjoy long, lonely hours for meditation.
Did they say:
"Ah! God has come to us as a poor man, not
because there is anything particularly noble or desirable in poverty, but
because so many of us are so very poor, and because the most of us have
been poor all the time, and because it is probable that most of us will be
poor in the future!"
Many a poor man has looked up into the silent
heavens and wondered sometimes whether God understood or cared about his
wretched lot. Of course God always knew and cared, we cannot gainsay that,
but in order to make men know that He knew and to make them believe that
He cared, He let them see that He did not disdain to be a poor man and
humble; that He sought His followers and supporters in the great majority.
My God was a Carpenter! That is why He came to the stable; that is
why He came to the manger. And that is why the poor come to Him.
And there came to that same cradle, a little while
after, the Wise Men. They were professional wise men; they belonged to the
learned, the cultured, the thoughtful class; but they were wise men as
well in the sense in which we use wisdom to-day. That is, they looked
beyond earthly conditions and saw Divinity where the casual glance does
not see it. How many a seamed, rugged face, how many a burden-bent back,
how many a faltering footstep, how many a knotted, calloused hand is
perhaps more nearly in the image of God than the fairer face, the
straighter figure, the softer palm!
The shepherds were not only poor, but they laboured
in their poverty; they were working men and they worshipped Him, the
Working Man. The wise men were not only wise, but they were rich. They
brought the treasures of the earth from the ends thereof and laid them
before the Babe and the mother. How fragrant the perfume of the
frankincense and the myrrh, and how rich the lustre of the gold and silver
in the mean surroundings of the hovel. They took no thought of their
costly apparel, they had no fear of contamination from their surroundings,
no question of relative degree entered their heads. As simply and as truly
as the shepherds they worshipped the Christ. The rich and the poor met
together there, and the Lord was the maker of them all.
Was that baby-hand the shaper of destiny? Was that
working-hand the director of events? Even so. The Lord's power is not less
the Lord's power though it be not exhibited in the stretched out arm of
Some of you who read this and many more who can not
are poor, perhaps very poor, but you can stand beside that manger and look
at that Baby's face, you can reflect upon the Child, how He grew, what He
said, what He did, until a cross casts its black shadow across your
vision—the war is raising many crosses and many there be that walk the via
dolorosa to them to-day. You shall be counted blessed if you can gaze
at that cross until it is transformed by the glory of the resurrection.
And in it all you can see your God—the poor man's God!—the rich man's
You can know that your God was poor, that He was
humble, that He struggled under adverse conditions, that He laboured, that
He was hungry, thirsty, tired, cold, that He was homeless, that He was
denied many of the joys of human society and the solace of affection, that
His best friends went back on Him, that everybody deserted Him, and that
the whole world finally rose up and crushed Him down. That he suffered all
things. Only a very great God could so endure. Only one who was truly God
could so manifest Himself in pain.
You can understand how He can comprehend what your
trouble is. Oh, yes, the poor and the bereaved have as great a right to
look into that manger and see their God there as have the rich and the
Now there is a kind of pernicious socialism which
condemns riches as things unholy and exalts poverty as a thing acceptable
to God. That Baby came as well to the rich as to the poor. Do not forget
that. It is not generally understood, but it is true. He accepted gladly
the hospitality, the alms, the gifts, priceless in value, of those who had
great possessions and He loved them even as He loved those who had
nothing. The rich and wise also have a right to look into that cradle to
see their God, too. When we say He is the God of all classes we do not
mean that He is only the God of the poor any more than we mean He is only
the God of the rich.
He came to all the children of men and they can all
stand by that cradle this morning and claim Him as their own; ask,
receive, and share in His blessing. The light that shone in the darkness
lighted impartially the world. Some of you are blessed with competences
and some of the competences are greater than others. What of it? The poor
man may serve God acceptably in his poverty and the rich man may serve God
acceptably in his wealth. There is one God and though He is King of Kings
and Lord of Lords, even though He may lie lowly in a manger, yet the
kingdom of Heaven is like a republic—it is a democracy in which all are
equal, or if there be distinctions they are based on righteousness
alone—saving only the distinctions Divine.
Now there is one other condition into which all men
inevitably fall. Whether they be rich or whether they be poor, they are
all bound to be sorrowful. Sooner or later, we are certain to be troubled.
And that is more true today, doubtless, than in any other period in the
long history of this old world.
These sorrowful ones can go unto Bethlehem and look
into the cradle and claim the Child as their God. For every sorrow that
has been yours, He experienced; every grief that you have bowed before, He
was forced to struggle with. Very tender and compassionate is our Lord. I
am quite sure that He notices your bowed head, that He puts His arms
across your shoulders, that He whispers words of comfort into your ear, or
that He gives you the silent sympathy of His presence, that He takes you
by the hand; that whatever action most appeals to you and is best for you
He takes if you wish Him to.
There are many people belonging to you or your
family who are far away, whom you would fain have with you this Christmas
morning. Many of them are fighting manfully in His cause, too. Do not
forget that our Lord came to the family! that He made a family by coming.
These far-off loved ones are doing what we are doing this morning. And
there are some you love who are still farther away. The sound of their
earthly voices is stilled, we may not clasp their hands, we cannot see
them any more. They are gone from the world, but not from our hearts. If
they are not here I think they are with Him. And we may be sure that it is
very pleasant to them where He is. They are not unmindful of our human
regrets and longings, but I think we ought not to be unmindful of their
peaceful joy in His presence.
And so everybody has a right to come to that cradle,
the poor, the humble, the hard workers, the toilers, the wise, the
learned, the easy, the rich, the joyous, the sad, the sorrowful, the
bereaved. They may all look into the manger and see their God.
He came to a family; He made a family. We are all in
that family, the children of the selfsame Father, the sons of the selfsame
God, the brethren of Him of the manger—German and French, English and
Austrian, Italian and Bulgar, Russian and Turk! Ay, and above all and with
all American and Belgian. Sirs, we be, not twelve, but many brethren! What
does that mean?
There is one musical word with, I think, perhaps the
ugliest meaning in the language. It is rancour. Let us do away with
it, let us put it aside. If we are poor let us be brethren to the other
poor, if we are rich let us be brethren to the other rich, if we are wise
let us be brethren to the other wise, if we are foolish let us be brethren
to the other foolish. Ah, that is not difficult; it is an easy task. But
that is not enough. Brotherhood is broader, thank God! Let the poor be
brethren to the rich and the rich to the poor, the wise to the ignorant,
the misguided to the well-directed, the ignorant to the wise, the foolish
to the discreet, the discreet to the foolish, the glad to the sorrowful,
the sorrowful to the glad, the servants of the Lord to the sinners against
"Then none was for a party; Then all were for the state;
Then the great man helped the poor, And the poor man loved the great:
Then lands were fairly portioned; Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers, In the brave days of old."
Let us make out of the old pagan ideals present-day
realities in our hearts as we go even unto Bethlehem and look into the
cradle of the King; realities in His own nobler and better words:
answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which
ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and
the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever
shall not be offended in Me."
Peace, goodwill toward men! Peace to men of goodwill!
That is what the angels sang. But there is nothing on earth to prevent us
from making it our human song as well. As we stand by the cradle of the
Master and peer into the manger at that which every human being loves, a
baby, our earthly differences of nationality, of rank, power, station, and
influence—things that are but the guinea's stamp upon the gold of
character and personality—fade into insignificance and become as
nothing. The little child in life notices none of these distinctions, he
marks nothing of them. Let us come as little children before Him. We may
be war-battered, sin-marked, toil-stained, care-burdened. Let us forget it
all this Christmas morning.
It was a poor place, that manger—the poorest place
on earth—but it was a place. It was somewhere. Let us give humanity even
as little as a manger. Let us not take up the Christ Child as we see Him
and throw Him out into the streets, or into no man's land. That is what we
do when we mock Him, when we deny Him, when we laugh Him to scorn. Let us
not shut Him out of His home place in our souls. Let us not refuse to open
when His hand knocks upon the door. That is what we do when we are
indifferent to Him. Let us take him out of the manger cradle, each one of
us, and enthrone Him in the most precious place we have, our inmost
It all happened a very long time ago and much water
has run in the brooks of the world under the bridges thereof since that
time, but the mangers of the world are never empty. They are always full.
In one sense, Christ is being born everywhere at this very hour and at all
Let us give the Child the best we have, the best we
can. Let us even now go down unto Bethlehem, laden with what we have for
the use of the King, and let us see in every child of man that lacks
anything this Christmas morning the image of Him who in that manger lay in
Bethlehem and let us minister to their needs in love.
"The little Christ is coming down Across the fields of snow;
The pine trees greet Him where they stand,
The willows bend to kiss His hand,
The mountain laurel is ablush
In hidden nooks; the wind, ahush
And tiptoe, lest the violets wake
Before their time for His sweet sake;
The stars, down dropping, form a crown Upon the waiting hills below—-
The little Christ is coming down Across the fields of snow.
"The little Christ is coming down Across the city streets;
The wind blows coldly from the north,
His dimpled hands are stretching forth,
And no one knows and no one cares,
The priests are busy with their prayers,
The jostling crowd hastes on apace,
And no one sees the pleading face,
None hears the cry as through the town He wanders with His small cold
The little Christ is coming down Across the city streets."
The love of Christmas is as strong in the West as it is
in any section of the country—perhaps, indeed, stronger, for people who
have few pleasures cherish holidays more highly than those for whom many
cheap amusements are provided. But when the manifestation of the Christmas
spirit is considered, there is a great difference between the West and the
East. There are vast sections of country in which evergreens do not grow
and to which it would not pay to ship them; consequently Christmas trees
are not common, and therefore they are the more prized when they may be
had. There are no great rows nor small clusters of inviting shops filled
with suggestive and fascinating contents at attractive prices. The
distances from centres of trade are so great that the things which may be
purchased even in the smallest towns in more favourable localities for a
few cents have there almost a prohibitive price put upon them. The efforts
of the people to give their children a merry Christmas in the popular
sense, however, are strong and sometimes pitiful.
It must not be forgotten that the West is settled by
Eastern people, and that no very great difference exists between them save
for the advantages presented by life in the West for the higher
development of character. Western people are usually brighter, quicker,
more progressive and less conservative, and more liberal than those from
whom they came. The survival of the fittest is the rule out there and the
qualities of character necessary to that end are brought to the top by the
strenuous life necessitated by the hardships of the frontier. If the
people are not any better than they were, it is because they are still
clinging to the obsolete ideas of the East.
The Eastern point of view always reminds me of the
reply of the bishop to the layman who was deploring the poor quality of
the clergy. "Yes," said the bishop, "some of them are poor;
but consider the stock from which they come. You see, we have nothing but
laymen out of which to make them."
The East never understands the West—the real West
that is, which lies beyond the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Rocky
Mountains. They know nothing of its ideas, its capacities, its
possibilities, its educational facilities, its culture, its real power, in
the East. And they do not wish to learn, apparently. The Easterners
fatuously think, like Job, that they are the people, and wisdom will die
with them. Some years since an article in the "Forum" on the
theme, "Kansas more civilized than New York" conclusively proved
the proposition to the satisfaction of the present writer at least.
Yet I know numberless dwellers in Gotham whose
shibboleth is "nothing outside of New York City but scenery,"
and they are a little dubious about admitting that. When one describes the
Grand Canyon or the Royal Gorge they point to Nassau or Wall Street, and
the Woolworth tower challenges Pike's Peak!
I sat at a dinner table one day when the salted
almonds were handed me with the remark: "I suppose you never saw
anything like these out West. Try some." And my wife has been quite
gravely asked if we feared any raids by the Indians and if they troubled
us by their marauding in Kansas. I have found it necessary to inform the
curious that we did not live in tepees or wigwams when in Nebraska or
Shortly after I came East to live I was talking with
a man and a very stupid man at that, who informed me that he graduated
from Harvard; to which surprising statement he added the startling
information, for the benefit of my presumably untutored occidental mind,
that it was a college near Boston! They have everything in the West that
the East has so far as their sometimes limited means will provide them and
when they have no money they have patience, endurance, grim determination,
and courage, which are better than money in the long run.
The cities and smaller towns especially as a rule
are cleaner, better governed, more progressive, better provided with
improvements and comforts than corresponding places in the East. Scarcely
a community exists without its water works, electric light plant,
telephone system, trolleys, paved streets, etc. Of course, this does not
apply to the extreme frontier in which my field of work largely lay so
many years ago. The conditions were different there—the people too in
that now far-distant time.
But to return to Christmas. One Christmas day I left
my family at one o'clock in the morning. Christmas salutations were
exchanged at that very sleepy hour and I took the fast express to a
certain station whence I could drive up country to a little church in a
farming country in which there had never been a Christmas service. It was
a bitter cold morning, deep snow on the ground, and a furious north wind
The climate is variable indeed out West. I have
spent Christmas days on which it rained all day and of all days in the
year on which to have it rain, Christmas is the worst. Still, the farmers
would be thankful. It was usually safe to be thankful out there whenever
it rained. I knew a man once who said you could make a fortune by always
betting two to one that it would not rain, no matter what the present
promise of the weather was. You were bound to win nine times out of ten.
I hired a good sleigh and two horses, and drove to
my destination. The church was a little old brick building right out in
the prairie. There was a smouldering fire in a miserable, worn-out stove
which hardly raised the temperature of the room a degree although it
filled the place with smoke. The wind had free entrance through the
ill-fitting window and door frames and a little pile of snow formed on the
altar during the service. I think there were twelve people who had braved
the fury of the storm. There was not an evergreen within a hundred miles
of the place and the only decoration was sage-brush. To wear vestments was
impossible, and I conducted the service in a buffalo overcoat and a fur
cap and gloves as I have often done. It was short and the sermon was
shorter. Mem.: If you want short sermons give your Rector a cold church or
a hot one!
After service I went to dinner at the nearest
farm-house. Such a Christmas dinner it was! There was no turkey, and they
did not even have a chicken. The menu was corn-bread, ham, and potatoes,
and mighty few potatoes at that. There were two children in the family, a
girl of six and a boy of five. They were glad enough to get the ham. Their
usual bill of fare was composed of potatoes and corn-bread, and sometimes
corn-bread alone. My wife had put up a lunch for me, fearing that I might
not be able to get anything to eat, in which there was a small mince-pie
turnover; and the children had slipped a small box of candy in my bag as a
Christmas gift. I produced the turnover which by common consent was
divided between the astonished children. Such a glistening of eyes and
smacking of small lips you never saw!
"This pie makes it seem like Christmas, after
all," said the little girl, with her mouth full.
"Yes," said the boy, ditto, "that and
"We didn't have any Christmas this year,"
continued the small maiden. "Last year mother made us some potato
men" (i.e., little animal and semi-human figures made out of
potatoes and matches with buttons for eyes; they went into many stockings
among the very poor out West then).
"But this year," interrupted the boy,
"potatoes are so scarce that we couldn't have 'em. Mother says that
next year perhaps we will have some real Christmas."
They were so brave about it that my heart went out
to them. Children and no Christmas gifts! Only the chill, bare room, the
wretched, meagre meal. I ransacked my brain. Finally something occurred to
me. After dinner I excused myself and hurried back to the church. There
were two small wicker baskets there which were used for the
collection—old but rather pretty. I selected the best one. Fortunately I
had in my grip a neat little "housewife" which contained a pair
of scissors, a huge thimble, needles, thread, a tiny little pin-cushion,
an emery bag, buttons, etc. I am, like most ex-sailors, something of a
needleman myself. I emptied the contents into the collection basket and
garnished the dull little affair with the bright ribbon ties ripped off
the "housewife" and went back to the house.
To the boy I gave my penknife which happened to be
nearly new, and to the girl the church basket with the sewing things for a
work-basket. The joy of those children was one of the finest things I have
ever witnessed. The face of the little girl was positively filled with awe
as she lifted from the basket, one by one, the pretty and useful articles
the "housewife" had supplied and when I added the small box of
candy that my children had provided me, they looked at me with feelings of
reverence, as a visible incarnation of Santa Claus. They were the cheapest
and most effective Christmas presents it was ever my pleasure to bestow. I
hope to be forgiven for putting the church furniture to such a secular
Another Christmas day I had a funeral. There was no
snow, no rain. The day was warm. The woman who died had been the wife of
one of the largest farmers in the diocese. He actually owned a continuous
body of several thousands of acres of fine land, much of it under
cultivation. She had been a fruitful mother and five stalwart sons, all
married, and several daughters likewise, with numerous grandchildren
represented her contribution to the world's population. They were the
people of the most consideration in the little community in which they
lived. We had the services in the morning in the Methodist church, which
was big enough to hold about six hundred people. As it was a holiday, it
was filled to the very doors. One of my farmer friends remarked as we
stood on the front steps watching the crowd assembling:
"My, doc, all of them wagons gatherin' here
makes it seem more like circus day than a funeral."
I had been asked to preach a sermon, which I essayed
to do. The confusion was terrific. In order to be present themselves the
mothers in Israel had been obliged to bring their children, and the most
domestic of attentions were being bestowed upon them freely. They cried
and wailed and expostulated with their parents in audible tones until I
was nearly frantic. I found myself shouting consoling platitudes to a
sobbing, grief-stricken band of relatives and endeavouring to drown the
noise of the children by roaring—the lion's part à la Bottom. It was
distracting. I was a very young minister at the time and the perspiration
fairly rained from me. That's what makes me remember it was a warm day.
When we got through the services after every one of
the six hundred had, in the language of the local undertaker, "viewed
the remains," we went to the cemetery. I rode behind a horse which
was thirty-eight years old. I do not know what his original colour had
been but at present he was white and hoary with age.
"I always use him for funerals," said the
undertaker, "because he naturally sets the proper pace for a funeral
"Mercy," said I, "I hope he won't die
on the road."
"Well, if he does," continued the
undertaker, "your services will come in handy. We can bury him
proper. I am awful fond of that horse. I shouldn't wonder if he hadn't
been at as many as a thousand funerals in his life."
I thought that he had all the gravity of his
grewsome experiences, especially in his gait. The Christmas dinners were
all late on account of the funeral but they were bountiful and good
nevertheless and I much enjoyed mine.
Another Christmas I was snow-bound on one of the
obscure branches of a Western railroad. If the train had been on time I
would have made a connection and have reached home by Christmas Eve, but
it was very evident, as the day wore on, that it was not going to be on
time. Indeed it was problematical whether it would get anywhere at all. It
was snowing hard outside. Our progress had become slower and slower.
Finally in a deep cut we stopped. There were four men, one woman, and two
little children in the car—no other passengers in the train. The train
was of that variety known out West as a "plug" consisting of a
combination baggage and smoker and one coach.
One of the trainmen started on a lonely and somewhat
dangerous tramp of several miles up the road to the next station to call
for the snow-plough, and the rest of us settled down to spend the night.
Certainly we could not hope to be extricated before the next evening,
especially as the storm then gave no signs of abating. We all went up to
the front of the car and sat around the stove in which we kept up a bright
fire,—fortunately we had plenty of fuel—and in such circumstances we
speedily got acquainted with each other. One of the men was a
"drummer," a travelling man for a notion house; another was a
cow-boy; the third was a big cattle-man; and I was the last. We soon found
that the woman was a widow who had maintained herself and the children
precariously since the death of her husband by sewing and other feminine
odd jobs but had at last given up the unequal struggle and was going back
to live with her mother, also a widow who had some little property.
The poor little threadbare children had cherished
anticipations of a joyous Christmas with their grandmother. From their
talk we could hear that a Christmas tree had been promised them and all
sorts of things. They were intensely disappointed at the blockade. They
cried and sobbed and would not be comforted. Fortunately the woman had a
great basket filled with substantial provisions which, by the way, she
generously shared with the rest of us, so we were none of us hungry. As
the night fell, we tipped up two of the seats, placed the bottoms
sideways, and with our overcoats made two good beds for the little folks.
Just before they went to sleep the drummer said to me:
"Say, parson, we've got to give those children
"That's what," said the cow-boy.
"I'm agreed," added the cattle-man.
"Madam," said the drummer, addressing the
woman with the easy assurance of his class, after a brief consultation
between us, "we are going to give your kids some Christmas."
The woman beamed at him gratefully.
"Yes, children," said the now enthused
drummer, as he turned to the open-mouthed children, "Santa Claus is
coming round to-night sure. We want you to hang up your stockings."
"We ain't got none," quivered the little
girl, "'ceptin' those we've got on and ma says it's too cold to take
"I've got two new pair of woollen socks,"
said the cattle-man eagerly, "which I ain't never wore, and you are
welcome to 'em."
There was a clapping of little hands in childish
glee, and then the two faces fell as the elder remarked.
"But Santa Claus will know they are not our
stockings and he will fill them with things for you instead."
"Lord love you," said the burly
cattle-man, roaring with infectious laughter, "he wont bring me
nothin'. One of us will sit up anyway and tell him it's for you. You've
got to hustle to bed right away because he may be here any time now."
Then came one of those spectacles which we sometimes
meet once or twice in a lifetime. The children knelt down on the rough
floor of the car beside their improvised beds. Instinctively the hands of
the men went to their heads and at the first words of "Now I lay me
down to sleep," four hats came off. The cow-boy stood twirling his
hat and looking at the little kneeling figures; the cattle-man's vision
seemed dimmed; while in the eyes of the travelling man there shone a
distant look—a look across snow-filled prairies to a warmly lighted
The children were soon asleep. Then the rest of us
engaged in earnest conversation. What should we give them? was the
"It don't seem to me that I've got anything to
give 'em," said the cow-boy mournfully, "unless the little kid
might like my spurs, an' I would give my gun to the little girl, though on
general principles I don't like to give up a gun. You never know when
you're goin' to need it, 'specially with strangers," he added with a
rather suspicious glance at me. I would not have harmed him for the world.
"I'm in much the same fix," said the
cattle-man. "I've got a flask of prime old whiskey here, but it don't
seem like it's very appropriate for the occasion, though it's at the
service of any of you gents."
"Never seen no occasion in which whiskey wasn't
appropriate," said the cow-boy, mellowing at the sight of the flask.
"I mean 'taint fit for kids," explained
the cattle-man handing it over.
"I begun on't rather early," remarked the
puncher, taking a long drink, "an' I always use it when my feelin's
is onsettled, like now." He handed it back with a sigh.
"Never mind, boys," said the drummer.
"You all come along with me to the baggage car."
So off we trooped. He opened his trunks, and spread
before us such a glittering array of trash and trinkets as almost took
away our breath.
"There," he said, "look at that.
We'll just pick out the best things from the lot, and I'll donate them
"No, you don't," said the cow-boy.
"My ante's in on this game, an' I'm goin' to buy what chips I want,
an' pay fer 'em too, else there ain't going to be no Christmas around
"That's my judgment, too," said the
"I think that will be fair," said I.
"The travelling man can donate what he pleases, and we can each of us
buy what we please, as well."
I think we spent hours looking over the stock which
the obliging man spread out all over the car for us. He was going home, he
said, and everything was at our service. The trainmen caught the
infection, too, and all hands finally went back to the coach with such a
load of stuff as you never saw before. We filled the socks and two seats
besides with it. The grateful mother was simply dazed.
As we all stood about, gleefully surveying our
handiwork including the bulging socks, the engineer remarked:
"We've got to get some kind of a Christmas
So two of us ploughed off on the prairie—it had
stopped snowing and was bright moon-light—and wandered around until we
found a good-sized piece of sage-brush, which we brought back and solemnly
installed and the woman decorated it with bunches of tissue paper from the
notion stock and clean waste from the engine. We hung the train lanterns
We were so excited that we actually could not sleep.
The contagion of the season was strong upon us, and I know not which were
the more delighted the next morning, the children or the amateur Santa
Clauses, when they saw what the cow-boy called the "layout."
Great goodness! Those children never did have, and
probably never will have, such a Christmas again. And to see the thin face
of that mother flush with unusual colour when we handed her one of those
monstrous red plush albums which we had purchased jointly and in which we
had all written our names in lieu of our photographs, and between the
leaves of which the cattle-man had generously slipped a hundred dollar
bill, was worth being blockaded for a dozen Christmases. Her eyes filled
with tears and she fairly sobbed before us.
During the morning we had a little service in the
car, in accordance with the custom of the Church, and I am sure no more
heartfelt body of worshippers ever poured forth their thanks for the
Incarnation than those men, that woman, and the little children. The woman
sang "Jesus Lover of my Soul" from memory in her poor little
voice and that small but reverent congregation—cow-boy, drummer,
cattle-man, trainmen, and parson—solemnly joined in.
"It feels just like church," said the
cow-boy gravely to the cattle-man. "Say I'm all broke up; let's go in
the other car and try your flask ag'in." It was his unfailing
resource for "onsettled feelin's."
The train-hand who had gone on to division
headquarters returned with the snow-plough early in the afternoon, but
what was more to the purpose he brought a whole cooked turkey with him, so
the children had turkey, a Christmas tree, and Santa Claus to their
heart's content! I did not get home until the day after Christmas.
But, after all, what a Christmas I had enjoyed!
During a season of great privation we were much
assisted by barrels of clothing which were sent to us from the East. One
day just before Christmas, I was distributing the contents of several
barrels of wearing apparel and other necessities to the women and children
at a little mission. The delight of the women, as the good warm articles
of clothing for themselves and their children which they so sadly needed
were handed out to them was touching; but the children themselves did not
enter into the joy of the occasion with the same spontaneity. Finally just
as I got to the bottom of one box and before I had opened the other one, a
little boy sniffling to himself in the corner remarked, sotto voce:
"Ain't there no real Chris'mus gif's in there
for us little fellers, too?"
I could quite enter into his feelings, for I could
remember in my youthful days when careful relatives had provided me with a
"cardigan" jacket, three handkerchiefs, and a half-dozen pairs
of socks for Christmas, that the season seemed to me like a hollow mockery
and the attempt to palm off necessities as Christmas gifts filled my
childish heart with disapproval. I am older now and can face a Christmas
remembrance of a cookbook, a silver cake-basket, or an ice-cream freezer
(some of which I have actually received) with philosophical equanimity, if
I opened the second box, therefore, with a great
longing, though but little hope. Heaven bless the woman who had packed
that box, for, in addition to the usual necessary articles, there were
dolls, knives, books, games galore, so the small fry had some "real
Chris'mus gif's" as well as the others.
After one of the blizzards a young ranchman who had
gone into the nearest town some twenty miles away to get some Christmas
things for his wife and little ones, was found frozen to death on
Christmas morning, his poor little packages of petty Christmas gifts
tightly clasped in his cold hands lying by his side. His horse was frozen
too and when they found it, hanging to the horn of the saddle was a little
piece of an evergreen tree—you would throw it away in contempt in the
East, it was so puny. There it meant something. The love of Christmas? It
was there in his dead hands. The spirit of Christmas? It showed itself in
that bit of verdant pine over the lariat at the saddle-bow of the poor
Do they have Christmas out West? Well, they have it
in their hearts if no place else, and, after all, that is the place above
all others where it should be.
A CHRISTMAS WISH
For Everybody, Everywhere
MAY peace and goodwill, prosperity and plenty, joy
and satisfaction abound in your homes and in your hearts this day and all
days. May opportunities for good work be many, and may you avail
yourselves of them all. May your sorrows be lightened, may your griefs be
assuaged. May your souls be fitted for what they must endure; may your
backs be strengthened for your burdens; may your responsibilities be met;
may your obligations be discharged; may your duties be performed. May love
abound more and more until the perfect day breaks in your lives. In short,
every wish that would be helpful, uplifting, and comforting, I wish you at
this hour and in all hours.
These loving and appealing verses were written by
Harriet F. Blodgett, of whom unfortunately I know absolutely nothing but
her name. I am sure, however, that if they had been written today
another verse, even more touching than those I have quoted, would have
been inspired by present conditions. And we should have seen "The
Little Christ" coming down between the lines in Flanders, on the
Balkan Frontier, amid the snows of Russia and the deserts of
Mesopotamia, and perhaps, as of old, even walking on the waters in the
midst of the sea.
This bit of personal history is reprinted from my
book Recollections of a Missionary in the Great West by the
courtesy of Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons, the publishers thereof.
Incidentally the reader will find much interesting matter in the way of
reminiscence and anecdote in that little volume, should he chance upon
There are some amusing things connected with the
publication in serial form of these episodes. The great magazine in
which it appeared has very strong views on certain subjects. Following
out a policy which has deservedly won them perhaps the largest
circulation of any magazine in the world it seemed to the editors
necessary and desirable to make some changes in the story as originally
written and as it appears hereafter.
For instance the revised serial version made the
cowboy lift the flask of whiskey to his lips and then it declared that
after a long look at the sleeping children he put it down! I was quite
agreeable to the change. I remember remarking that the cowboy certainly
did "put it down." It was a way cowboys had in those bygone
days; so the editor and the author were both satisfied.
Another amusing thing I recall in connection with
the serial publication was this: The art editor of the magazine wrote to
the officials of the railroad, the name of which I gave in the first
version but which I now withhold, saying that the magazine had a story
of a snow-bound train on the railroad in question and asking for
pictures of snow-bound trains to help the artist illustrate it. By
return mail came an indignant remonstrance almost threatening a lawsuit
because the railroad in question, one of the southerly transcontinental
roads, made a point in its appeal to travellers that its trains were
never snow-bound! The art editor who was not without a vein of humour
wrote back and asked if they could furnish him with pictures of
snow-bound trains on competing roads and they sent him a box full! C.T.B.