Christmas at the Cottage
by the American Sunday-School Union
Mrs. Dudley's children look forward to Christmas
with many anticipations of pleasure, for several
weeks before it comes. They are quite busy in preparing
for it. Their mother is the repository of
their secrets, and assists them by her advice in making
their arrangements. Many important deliberations
take place about mats, pin-cushions, and bookmarks.
As the day approached, the children often expressed
the wish that it was here. A few days was
a long time for them to wait. But time did not
hasten. The hours were just sixty minutes, and
the minutes just sixty seconds. The clock ticked on
as usual. It was unmoved by all the excitement,
and never, for an instant, quickened its pace.
When Saturday came, their mother proposed that
the presents should be distributed that evening.
She did not like to have the children wish the Sabbath
past, and on Monday morning there would be
but little time to make their arrangements before
the hour for school. She knew they would be quiet
and happy if they had some new books to read, and
would be perfectly willing to lay aside other gifts
Mary wished to decorate the parlour with evergreens.
Mrs. Dudley sent a man to get some for
her. She and Willie arranged them in bunches and
wreaths. Eddie helped all he could, and was as
happy as any of them. In the afternoon their
mother assisted them. She put the bunches made
of the delicate, feathery hemlock, and the dark
glossy laurel, over the windows, and suspended the
wreaths where the bay-windows projected from the
room. Small branches of cedar and spruce were
tastefully arranged in vases, relieved by the rich,
green leaves of the ivy, and the bright, lively twigs
The children wished for a Christmas tree, but the
evergreens they had were all too small for that purpose
Mrs. Dudley suggested that the hat-stand
might be substituted. They were delighted, and
immediately busied themselves in adorning it with
garlands. It proved quite ornamental, and the
pegs served a very useful purpose. Mary arranged
on some strips of white paper the words, "A merry
Christmas." The letters were made of the small
leaves of the box, and were fastened on with gum-arabic.
These were placed amid the wreaths on
the transformed hat-stand.
When all these arrangements were completed to
their satisfaction, they left the room. Mrs. Dudley
remained some time longer. When she left, the door
Mr. Dudley returned from the city, where he had
been spending the day, bringing some friends with
him. Tea was speedily despatched, and then all
the family were summoned. The parlour door was
unlocked. There were various toys, baskets, and
reticules suspended on the hat-stand. There was a
nice little felt hat for one of Mary's dolls, and a
looking-glass for the baby-house, and an embroidered
cushion, which Willie's industrious fingers had made
for Minnie Dudley, as the doll is called—a far better
employment for him, I think, than throwing it
about and treating it roughly, as I have sometimes
heard of boys doing. There were humming-tops,
which reminded me, by their music, of the great
spinning-wheel that whirred away in my mother's
kitchen when I was a child. There were graces,
and battle-doors, and jack-straws for the amusement
of the children when it was too cold or stormy to
play out of doors.
On a table was an array of slippers, which Mary
and her mother had wrought for father and the boys.
There was merry capering when they were transferred
to the feet of their owners. I shall not tell
you whether Mr. Dudley so far forgot his dignity as
to partake of the excitement, but I am quite sure
he was much gratified by the present Mary had
made for him with her own hands, and that he
kissed his thanks with great fondness.
Most valuable of all to the little folks, and most
gladly welcomed, were the books. How eagerly
they looked them over.
There was a present to Mrs. Dudley from her
children, which I must not forget to tell you about.
It was a plain gold pin, in which, neatly plaited,
were six bunches of hair. One of them was dark,
streaked with gray—the others were auburn, flaxen,
and brown. She knew whence the treasures came
to unite in that beautiful mosaic, and the tears were
ready to start from her eyes as she received that
precious token of family love.
When I was a child, I heard little about Christmas.
It came and went without my knowledge.
But I enjoy the return of it very much now, and
sympathize with children in the interest with which
they regard it. I like to think they are treasuring
up such cheerful memories to make their early home
attractive to their age.
The little Dudley's will always like to look back
to this pleasant evening, and wherever they are,
their hearts will warm more fondly on account of
it to their father's cottage, nestled in the valley, and
they will be in less danger of forgetting the lessons
of love and kindness they have learned there.