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 till Monday.

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 of box.

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 was locked.

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.