Merry Christmas by E. G. C.
ALL the hill-side was green with maples,
and birches, and pines. The
meadows at its foot were green, too, with
the tufted salt grass, and glittering with
the silver threads of tide braided among
its winding creeks. Beyond was the city,
misty and gray, stretching its wan arms
to the phantom ships flitting along the
From the green hill-side you could hear
the city’s muffled hum and roar, and sometimes
the far-off clanging of the bells from
its hundred belfries. But the maples and
birches seemed to hear and see nothing
beyond the sunshine over their heads and
the winds which went frolicking by. Life
was one long dance with them, through
the budding spring and the leafy summer,
and on through the grand gala days of
autumn, till the frost came down on the
hills, and whispered,—
“Your dancing days are all over.”
But the pines were quite different.
They, the stately ones, stood quite aloof,
the older and taller ones looking stiffly
over the heads of the rollicking maples,
and making solemn reverences to the
great gray clouds that swept inland from
the ocean. The straight little saplings
at their feet copied the manners of their
elders, and folding their fingers primly,
and rustling their stiff little green petticoats
decorously, sat up so silent and
So unlike the small birches and maples
that chattered incessantly, wagging their
giddy heads, and playing tag with the
butterflies in the sunshine all the day long!
“How tiresome those stupid old pines
are! No expression, no animation. So
lofty and so exclusive, and forever grumbling
to each other in their hoarse old
Scandinavian, which it gives one the
croup even to listen to! Of what possible
use can they be?”
This was what the maple said to the
birch one day when the Summer and her
patience with her sombre neighbor were
on the wane—one day when there was a
gleam of golden pumpkins in the tawny
corn stubble beyond the wood, and the
purpling grapes hung ripening over the
old stone wall that lay between, and the
maple had brightened its summer dress
with a gay little leaf set here and there in
its shining folds.
The birch agreed with the maple about
the pines, and the maple went glibly on.
“I’ve ordered my autumn dresses—a
different one for each day in the week.
Just think of those horrid pines never
altering the fashion of their stiff old
“We shall not be obliged to remain in
this dull place much longer,” said the tall
pines loftily to each other, looking quite
over the heads of the maple and the birch.
“We shall soon be crossing the ocean,
and then our lives will have just begun.
We simply vegetate here.”
“Ho, ho!” laughed the maple and the
birch behind their fluttering green fans,
pretending to be greatly amused at what
the west wind was saying to them.
Now, though the trees spoke a different
language, yet each understood perfectly
well what the other said; so their rudeness
was quite inexcusable.
When the summer was ended, the maple
began to put on her gorgeous autumn
dresses; but the pines looked much at
the sky, and paid little heed to the maple.
The other trees on the hill-side, quite
faded with their summer gayeties, looked
on languidly in the still autumn days at
the maple’s brilliant toilets.
Soon the cold rains swept in from the
sea, blurring the wood vistas; and when
they were gone, the frost came in the
midnight, with its unwelcome message,
and later the snow lay white above all
the faded and fallen crimson and gold
of the maple and the tarnished silver of
All the trees, brown and bare now,
moaned in the wintry wind—all but the
tall pines, and they were crossing the
ocean; their lives had begun. The little
saplings remained behind, but with their
heads perked stiffly up above the snow;
they had the air of expecting somebody.
They were not disappointed. One sunny
morning, a boy and a girl came singing
through the wood paths, each in a pair of
high-topped boots, and each in a faded
and closely-buttoned coat, the girl with a
blue hood pulled over her rosy face, and
the boy with a fur cap closely tied about
his ears by a red comforter. The two
drew a hand-sled, and peered about under
the tall trunks as they went stamping
through the deep snow. How they shouted
as they spied the little pine trees perking
up their heads! How they tossed
aside the snow, and worked away with
their jackknives, hacking at the little pine
trees till they had cut them all down, all
ready to be piled up on their hand-sled.
“Where are you going?” asked the
giddy little birch of the pines, peeping
out from a small window in her snow-house.
Her nose was purple, and her
fingers stiff with cold; but down under
the earth her feet were warm, and that
was pleasant, at any rate.
“It is of no consequence where,” said
the pines, in their grimmest Scandinavian.
The birch simply said, “O!” and drew
in her little purple nose, hoping heartily
they were all going to be burned, as that
would be a good end and riddance of them.
But the little pines were not going to
be burned; they were going away to the
city that lay misty and still beyond the
frozen meadows. Stretched out stiffly on
the hand-sled, they were jostled along out
through the wood, over the frozen turnpike,
and across the mill-dam to Boston.
They alighted at the Boylston Market,
and were ranged in a row against the dark
“How much happens in a very short
time!” they said to each other; “all
those gaudy, chattering trees left without
a leaf to cover them, our own friends all
gone on their travels, and we here in the
city, wrapped in our warm winter furs.”
It was the Christmas week. The shop
windows were gay with toys and gorgeous
Christmas offerings; the shop doors were
opening and shutting on the crowd that
came and went through them. A bustling
throng of people passed incessantly up
and down the narrow sidewalks, and carriages
of all descriptions blocked the
crossings, or drove recklessly over the
The old woman in the quilted black
hood and shaggy cape, who had charge
of the little pine trees, drove a brisk trade
that day in her wreaths and holly; but
though many people stopped to admire the
little pines, and even to ask their price, no
purchaser had yet appeared for them.
The old dame was rubbing her mittened
hands briskly together, and mumbling in
a displeased way at the pine trees, when
a carriage drew suddenly up at the curbstone,
and out sprang a little girl.
“See, papa, how lovely! So green, and
fresh, and thick!” she said, pointing to
the row of pines.
A bargain was concluded in a trice.
The money was dropped into the eager,
outstretched mitten of the old woman,
and a little Christmas tree dragged over
the sidewalk, and set up in the buggy.
“We must have some of these lower
branches cut off; they are in the way,”
“Hev a knife, sir?” shouted a ragged
little fellow, whipping a rusty old knife
out of his pocket.
“Please, sir, lemme cut it for you. Say,
where?” he cried, laying hold of the pine,
as the gentleman in the buggy pointed to
him where to cut.
The lower branches being trimmed to
the gentleman’s satisfaction, the Christmas
tree, leaning comfortably against the
crimson afghan, was soon on its way to
Meadow Home, while its lower branches
and some jingling small coin remained in
the hands of the gaping urchin on the
“This here’s luck—fust-rate luck,”
remarked the small boy, stamping his
feet, and staring stupidly after the retreating
“Out of the way there!” growled a
man in a farmer’s frock, lifting a pile of
frozen turkeys from a wagon.
The boy ducked aside, his ragged little
trousers fluttering in the wind. Then he
sat down on the market steps to count
“Hi! twenty-five cents. There’s a
mutton stew and onions for you and your
folks a Christmas, Mike Slattery, and all
this jolly green stuff thrown in free gratis.
That chap was a gen’leman, and no mistake.
Won’t Winnie hop when she sees
me a-h’isting of these here over our stairs,
and she a-blowin’ at me for a week to
bring her some sich, and me niver seein’
nary a chance at ’em ’cept stealin’s, which
is wot this here feller ain’t up to no ways
whatsomever. No, sir. Hi!”
Mike waved his Christmas boughs aloft
in great glee.
An old gentleman with gold-headed
cane and spectacles was going up the
steps of the market, followed by a beautiful
black-and-white setter. The playful
dog sprang at the green branches. Mike
held on to them stoutly. The dog suddenly
let go of them, and bounded away,
while Mike rolled over and over to the
foot of the steps, clutching tightly the
“You’ll ketch it,” he muttered, setting
his teeth hard together behind his white
lips, and trying in vain to scramble up.
“Yer hurt, bub?” asked a wrinkled
old apple woman, turning round on her
three-legged stool, and thrusting her nose
inquiringly out of the folds of the old
brown shawl, which was wrapped around
“You bet I be!” whimpered Mike,
pointing forlornly with his one unoccupied
finger to his bruised ankle.
“Been playin’ pitch-pennies, yer mis’ble
young ’un!” grinned a tall boy, strolling
by with his hands in his pockets, and
his ferret eyes on the sharp lookout for
In a twinkling he swooped up Mike’s
small coin, which had rattled to the pavement,
and vanished with them in a struggling
tangle of horse cars and omnibuses
before Mike finished his desperate yell of,
“Gim me ’um.”
By this time a crowd had gathered about
the prostrate Mike, who, faint with pain,
was at last lifted into the chaise of a kind-hearted
doctor, who was passing, and carried
to his house in Bone Court.
There we will leave Mike for a while,
and look after the little pine tree on its
way to Meadow Home.
Such a group of round, rosy faces as
were on the watch for it in the great bay
window of Meadow Home, peering out
in the red sunset, straining their eyes in
the dim twilight, and peering still more
persistently as the stars came out through
the gathering darkness!
The fire danced in the grate, and the
shadows danced on the wall, and the four
little heads danced more and more impatiently
in the window pane, as the cold
winter night settled down on the world
outside of Meadow Home.
“They’re run away with and threw
out. What will you bet, Mab?” shouted
Will, turning away from the window in
disgust, and indulging in a double somerset.
“Thrown, Will,” corrected Mabel, just
now more indignant with his grammar
than his slang.
Mabel began to clear with her sleeve
an unblurred peep through the pane, and
then pressed her nose hard against the
“It’s my opinion,” she said, with great
pompousness, “that the Christmas trees
are all sold. I told Ely not to put off
buying till to-day. Don’t you remember,
Alice? And so papa is just coming home
Alice poh-pohed. Alice was sitting up
stiffly at a table by the fire, stuffing a
pin-cushion, assisted, or, more properly,
impeded, by her small brother Chrissy,
who had offered his services, and would
not listen to Alice’s nay. Chrissy was
not handsome in any light, but by the
flickering firelight he looked like a little
ogre. He sat hunched up in his chair,
his knees drawn up to his nose, the sharp
end of his tongue curling out of the
corner of his mouth, and his small eyes
actually crossed in the earnestness of
his work, which consisted in snatching
chances at the stuffing with a table-spoon
and a cup of bran.
THE LITTLE SLATTERYS.
“I hear them,” exclaimed Mabel, springing
down from the window, her nose a
Now away down stairs flew all the four,
who had been wriggling for an hour in
the bay window.
“Shut the door, Chrissy,” nodded the
dignified Alice to Chrissy, whose eyes
had marvellously uncrossed, and whose
tongue had disappeared at Mabel’s announcement.
Chrissy drew down his
knees, and obeyed. “Spoon up the bran
you spilled, Chrissy,” directed Alice,
calmly stitching at her pin-cushion.
The reluctant Chrissy’s obedience was
less of a success this time. The noise
of a great commotion in the hall below
reached the quiet chamber. Chrissy,
with his face twisted inquiringly first
over one shoulder and then over the
other, spooned at random.
The sounds came nearer. Through the
hurrying of eager feet and the clamor of
glad voices was a tap-tapping on the
wainscot and a thumping on the oaken
“May be it’s St. Nicholas?” questioned
Chrissy, spooning very unsteadily, his eyes
and his ears wide open.
“No; it isn’t time for him. He’s
doing up his pack now, and they are harnessing
The door burst open, and in tumbled
four children and the little pine tree.
Chrissy darted forward, shrieking with
delight, and fell headlong among the
“What a pretty pine!” said Alice,
calmly locking up the pin-cushion in her
Now Ely, still in her fur cap and sack,
rushed in excitedly among her struggling
brothers and sisters, and rescued the pine
“Sitting up so piminy there, Alice
Eliot, your two hands folded, and the
beautiful Christmas tree just going to destruction,
with those four wretched little
thunderbolts pitching into it!”
Ely was purple with wrath.
The four little Eliots were on their feet
again in a trice, giggling and nudging each
other behind the excited Ely.
“It’s a truly lovely pine,” remarked
Alice, composedly, shaking some bran
from her skirt.
“You might have said so, if you had
gone round looking for them in the freezing
cold, as I did, and then couldn’t find
one fit to be seen, except—”
“Alice, didn’t I tell her so?” interrupted
Mabel, pulling Chrissy’s fat fingers
away from Ely’s pocket just as they were
about to grasp the protruding heels of a
little dancing jack.
Alice now lighted the gas, Ely set the
pretty pine tree carefully against the wall,
and the four little Eliots danced hand in
hand frantically about it.
Then Alice, and Mabel, and Ely went
up close to the fender, and whispered together
about the presents Ely had brought
home to put in the children’s stockings,
and Mabel helped Ely empty her great
stuffed-out pocket; and the fire laughed
through the bars of the grate to see the
parcels that came forth.
By and by Mabel and Ely took the pine
tree carefully down stairs into a beautiful
room, and Alice came close behind them
with a great covered basket. The four
little Eliots followed noisily, striving to
peep under the basket covers; but Ely
thrust them all out again into the hall,
and locked the door upon them.
Now began the Christmas adorning of
the little pine tree. Such beautiful things
as were hung upon it, and folded about it,
and festooned around it!
“How charming to be a pine!” murmured
the little tree, with its head among
the frescoed cherubs on the ceiling.
“Where are you, Mabel Eliot? Light
up the burners now,” commanded Ely
from the top of a step-ladder.
Ely crept out from under the green
baize around the foot of the pine tree,
two pins in her mouth, a crimson smoking-cap
on her dishevelled head, and a
pair of large-flowered toilet slippers drawn
over her hands.
“I crawled in behind there to see if
there mightn’t be a place somewhere for
these,” explained Ely, hastening for the
torch, and proceeding to light up.
The pine tree now saw itself reflected
in the great mirror opposite, and echoed
the “splendid” of the three girls, who
clapped their hands at the gorgeous effect.
Then the lights were put out. The silver
key was turned in the door again, and the
girls went away, leaving the pine tree in
The four small Eliots, after pinning up
their stockings by the chimney, seated
themselves in their night-gowns on the
hearth-rug, and talked over St. Nicholas
before they got into bed. Each agreed
to wake the others if he “should just
but catch Santa Claus coming down the
Chrissy, squinting up his eyes till nothing
but two little lines of black lashes
were visible, was sure “he should catch
him; O, yes, he should.”
So they all climbed sleepily into bed,
pinning their faith on Chrissy.
The night darkened and deepened, the
stars moving on in a grand procession.
Somewhere about midnight St. Nicholas
was off on his ride, galloping over the roof-tops,
and knocking at every chimney-top
that had a knocker, just getting through
at day dawn with the deal he had to do.
The “eight tiny reindeer” had barely
trotted him out of sight, when thousands
of little children in thousands of homes
began hopping out of bed to look in their
The Christmas morning was breaking
in joy and gladness, as if the dear Christ
Child of eighteen hundred years ago were
newly born that day. Little children, and
old men, and maidens waked to give good
gifts and greetings to each other, remembering
whom the good Father in heaven
had given to them on that first glad
In an attic in Bone Court, Mike Slattery,
wildly staring about him, bolted up
in bed, waked by big Winnie, and little
Pat, and Jimmy roaring “Merry Christmas”
in his ears.
“Oop, Mike, an’ tak’ a look at Winnie’s
Christmas fixin’s foreninst yer two eyes,”
piped Jimmy, flapping the little breeches
he was too excited to put on at the little
pine branches stuck up thickly in the
“Isn’t yer fut that better ye might hobble
up to see what the good gintleman—him
as brought ye home—left behind for
yees and us arl—the Christmas things,
ye’ll mind?” inquired Winnie, combing
her tangled auburn locks, and stooping
compassionately over Mike.
“There’s the big burhd for yees,” cackled
little Pat, staggering up to the bedside
with a goose hugged to his bosom.
“Hooray!” cried Mike, swinging his
pillow; “that thafe of a chap didn’t do
us out of our Christmas dinner, thin.
Here’s a go beyant mutton and onions.”
“Blissid be thim as saysonably remimbers
the poor,” sniffed Mrs. Slattery, who
was down on her hands and knees washing
up the broken bit of hearth under the
“That’s so,” chimed in the little
Slatterys; and then they all fell again to admiring
The sun had climbed a long way up the
sky, and was just looking in through the
pine branches in the Slatterys’ window,
when a little golden head, surmounted by
a blue velvet hat, looked in through the
“Merry Christmas. May I come in?”
Pat looked at Jim, and Jim looked at
Mike, and all three, open-mouthed, looked
at the little golden head in the doorway.
“I just came in to bring you some pretty
story books of mine, and a cap of brother
Jack’s, and a nice new pair of shoes for
Mike. How do you do, Mike, this morning?
Papa—he’s the doctor who brought
you home, Mike—is coming soon to see
She had emptied her little leathern bag,
laid down her gifts on a chair, and vanished
before Winnie got up the stairs
from the wood-house, or Mrs. Slattery, in
the closet, had finished skewering up the
goose, or a single little Slattery had found
a word to say.
I cannot stay to tell you about the
Slatterys’ Christmas dinner, and Mike
perched up at the table, with brother
Jack’s cap on his head, and the new pair
of shoes on the floor by his side. I have
just time to stop a minute at Meadow
Home, where a little golden head, with a
little blue velvet hat tilted atop, flits in
before me at the great hall door. As I
went quickly through the holly and under
the wreaths, a little voice, in wheedling
tones, called from the gallery above,—
“Stay to dine to dinner?”
At the same time a small dancing jack,
dangling from somewhere overhead,
caught by his hands and feet in my
chignon, as if striving to pull me up. Ah,
Chrissy clapped his hands in delight,
and then dropping the string of the little
jack, ran away swiftly to hide.
“Do stay to dine, aunt Clara,” begged
Mabel, and Alice, and Ely, all three
springing forward at once to disengage
the jumping jack from my hair.
“Ah, do, Miss Clara; I’ve something
to tell you about a little boy I saw this
morning,” pleaded little golden-head,
peering through an evergreen arch. “Do
stay and see the Christmas tree lighted
after dinner,” besought all four, gathering
closely around me.
But aunt Clara was engaged to dine at
the square old house over the way, with
the dear old lady who could not see the
pine wreaths that made her old-fashioned
parlor so sweet with their resinous, balmy
“They remind me of the times when
my girls and boys were all about me so gay
and happy, and the old house resounded
with their ‘Merry Christmas.’ ’Tis many
a year now, dear Clara, since there was a
merry Christmas here; but happy Christmases
there have been, thank God, not a
few. A happy Christmas, dear, to you,
and thanks for brightening the day for
me,” said the old lady, with a gentle sigh,
as I placed her at the quiet table.
A merry, merry Christmas to all the
little “Merrys” who read this story. Do
not forget that there are homes where
live forlorn little Mikes and Jimmys,
whom you can make glad in this glad
time; and do not forget that there are
sorrowing homes which the mere sight
and sound of your bright young faces
and voices will brighten and cheer.