The Baldwin Library
A CHRISTMAS STORY.
S LICE! Clara! where are you ? Do come
downstairs quickly to hear what I have
got to tell you."
"What is it, Willie?" said his sister
Alice, preparing to run down to her little brother, who
was standing at the hall-door with a hoop in his hand
waiting to go out.
Do stay for me, Alice; Willie is so impatient. Let
him wait for once," said Clara, stopping her.
"Very well, then, I wont tell you at all," returned
the boy. You may ask Mademoiselle; she knows."
Oh! do wait, Willie; we are really coming now."
And Alice and Clara Travers ran downstairs in thick
boots, scarlet cloaks, and black hats, ready for a walk
that bright frosty December morning. But the delay
had made Willie perverse, and he turned away, hum-
ming a tune, but would not speak.
Foolish children," said their kind-looking governess,
4 Alice's Watch.
who came out of the school-room to join them at that
moment: "you are going to spoil all your pleasure
by disputing. Am I to tell Willie '"
No, no! let me!" he cried, eagerly. Willie's fits of
crossness never lasted long. "Only think! we are to
have a half-holiday every day from to-day till Christ-
"Why? Who says so?" asked the two girls in a
"It's more than a fortnight," said Alice, doubtfully.
"I know that. To-day is a half-holiday, then; as
Christmas day comes on a Monday, Sunday is no day
No day at all," repeated Clara; oh, Willie, what
can you mean ? Do tell us, Mademoiselle."
Willie has not made his meaning very clear, I
confess," said Mademoiselle Brunot, laughing. What
he means to tell you is that I have leave from your
mamma to give you a half-holiday every day next week,
so that you may have time to help me to make some
Christmas decorations for the church, and for the
house also if we can."
There! isn't that jolly?" said Willie; we are to
go about it all now."
Oh! how very nice; we shall like it better than
anything. Buthowis it tobe done? Whatare weto
Alice's Watch. 5
"We are going to the Lodge to ask Jenkins to cut
us some holly and ivy and laurel, and then to the vil-
lage to buy some rolls of webbing; but I warn you
beforehand that it is not pleasant work."
I don't mind that if it is to make the church look
beautiful," returned Alice.
"And I don't mind what it is if it's not lessons,"
The parents of these children, Colonel and Mrs.
Travers, lived in a fine old house on the borders of the
New Forest. They had five children in all, the three
you already know, and Guy and Mabel who were still
in the nursery. Alice, the eldest, was nearly twelve
years old; she was earnest and thoughtful, perhaps
rather too old for her age. Clara was nine years old,
and Willie seven. They were all extremely fond of
their governess, who had lived with them for some
years, and was constantly devising small pleasures and
interests for them. She was an excellent governess, and
though rather strict about their studies, contrived to
make their lives as bright as healthy happy children's
lives could possibly be.
Full of delight they walked quickly to the Lodge,
and then to the village to execute their commissions.
As they came home they went into the church, which
happened to be open, to see the best way in which it
could be decorated. It was an old church with fine
6 Alice's Watch.
Norman arches, and Mademoiselle Brunot told the chil-
dren that the idea had been to twine evergreens round
all the pillars, and to put small bunches of holly and
ivy in the other parts of the church.
When they came home they found that two large
clothes-baskets full of evergreens had been already put
beside the school-room door, and they could scarcely
eat any dinner, so eager were they to begin their work.
Perhaps it may interest some of my young readers to
know exactly what this work was.
It was simply to sew-three laurel leaves at the edge
of a strip of webbing about three inches wide, in the
shape of the three leaves of a fleur-de-lys, placing a bunch
of holly with plenty of berries immediately below, so as
to hide where the stalks of the laurel leaves meet. Then
to repeat the three laurel leaves in such a way as en-
tirely to hide the webbing, and to put a bunch of ivy
with the berries on immediately below, instead of the
holly. The bunches of holly and ivy were to be put
alternately; by doing this there would soon be several
yards of green.wreath ready to be nailed over any win-
dow or archway, or to twist round any pillars if re-
quired. As soon as it was completed the leaves were
to be all painted over with strong gum water, which
would keep them fresh for some time and give them a
Very diligently they all set to work, for even Willie
could be employed in choosing the best laurel leaves, or
in laying bunches of holly and ivy in rows, ready to be
sewn upon the webbing. By degrees, however, he got
tired of this.
Can't I sew some, Mademoiselle ?" he asked in a
No, Willie, I am sure that Clara finds it hard work;
don't you, my child?"
I don't think it's such very hard work, only the
holly does so prick, my fingers are quite sore,"
said Clara, as she held up her hands and lookedat them
You should wear gloves as I do," said the governess.
"However, I think I can find some easier work for you
and Willie, while Alice and I go on with this. You
must get me two saucers, one must be full of flour and
the other of brimstone, then I will show you what to
Oh, how funny! I will run down to Mrs. Ste
phens and get them directly," exclaimed Willie, de-
lighted at this change in his occupation.
He soon returned with the saucers, wondering what
could possibly be done with them Mademoiselle Brunot
poured some strong gum water into a tea-cup, telling
Clara to dip the ivy berries first into the gum water
and then into the flour, and to lay them on the window
sill to dry.
8 Alice's Watch.
"What pretty white berries!" said Willie, clapping
his hands; "oh, Mademoiselle, how clever you are!"
Now, Willie, dip those Clara has gummed into the
brimstone and you will see pretty yellow berries next
This was a great delight, and Willie coloured so many
that at last Alice begged to have some green ones left.
The work progressed rapidly, and some yards of the
,' green wreath" were soon done; and, as the children
became impatient to see the effects of their industry,
Mademoiselle Brunot proposed to them to walk to the
vicarage and ask Mr. Duke when he would like it put
up, as it would require a man with a ladder to do it.
Then we may go on as far as the common, Made-
moiselle, mayn't we ?" asked Alice; "and I can take
Mrs. Evans the clothes I have made for her little boy."
This was arranged; the next morning was cold and
bright, and the children set off for their walk in great
spirits. Mr. Duke promised to meet them at the church
the next day and assist, himself, in the decorations.
Alice told him that they were going on to see Mrs.
Evans, and that they had but little time, as it was a long
There was a nest of cottages under a hill at the far end
of the common; Mrs. Evans' was the first of these. The
children walked quickly over the heath, and though the
dew was still glistening on the furze and fern, the
Alice's Watch. 9
short turf was dry and springy under their feet
Mrs. Evans had been Alice's nurse once, and she was
still very much attached to her. The cottage looked
rather different to the others, with its garden and rustic
porch over which ivy was trained, which made it look
cheerful even in winter.
"What a pretty cottage!" said Mademoiselle
Brunot; "I don't remember to have seen it before."
"They have only lived here a year," replied Alice,
"but as George Evans is a carpenter, he has been able
to improve it. But he is ill now, and cannot work at
all; this is the eldest girl. Come here, Jenny; why
ain't you at school ?" The child only began to cry,
and did not answer.
"Where is your mother, my dear?" said Made-
moiselle Brunot, kindly.
"Up with father; he's been took, oh! so bad,"
she said, with a sort of gasping sigh.
"I am very sorry-oh, here she is. Mary Anne, I've
made some clothes for Johnny; do you think they will
fit him ?" said Alice, giving Mrs. Evans the bundle she
"Thank you, dear Miss Alice. How good of you!
But you will come in and rest a bit now you are here,
They followed her into the cottage, which was very
clean, but Mrs. Evans herself was poorly clad, and
So Alice's Watch.
looked ill and worn, and as if she hardly understood
what they were saying.
Don't youlike Johnny's frock ?" asked Alice, rather
disappointed at the indifference displayed towards her gift.
Oh yes, Miss Alice, it's beautiful-only nothing can
be of any good to us now;" and poor Mrs. Evans sat
down and sobbed as if her heart was breaking.
You must not be so downcast," said Mademoiselle
Brunot, cheerfully; I know your husband is very
ill, but still Johnny must have some clothes."
"Indeed it's no matter, ma'am," she said, vehe-
mently, as the tears streamed down her cheeks," for we've
had notice to quit unless the rent is paid up in a fort-
night. I have not got it, so I can't pay it, and we
must all go into the workhouse. The children will be
kept away from me there, and I can't nurse George.
Oh! it's more than I can bear. I wish we were all dead
and lying in the churchyard, I do."
I think that is an impatient wish," said Mademoiselle
Brunot, gravely; God who has sent you this trouble
will help you to bear it, if you only are patient and
trust in Him. What do you owe for rent ?"
"Nearly eight pounds, and then there is three
pounds to be paid for bread, besides the doctor's bill
and the things I have been obliged to get for George."
Then you probably owe fourteen or fifteen pounds;
it's a large sum."
Alice's Watch. I
"It is indeed, and I wish I had not let the rent run
on, but I thought George would get well, and as his
wages are good we should soon have made it less.
Now we have only a fortnight to look round us, and
God help us, for we have not a friend in the world."
After some more conversation, in which Made-
moiselle Brunot tried to comfort her, and after promising
to send some wine for her sick husband, they left the
cottage. The children looked grave and subdued from
having witnessed poor Mrs. Evans' grief, and walked
on for some time in silence. At last Alice stopped
suddenly, and the colour flushed up into her face as
Oh, Mademoiselle, I think I can pay it."
"Fifteen pounds! surely you have not so much
money of your own?"
"No, but grandpapa always gives us each a present
on New Year's Day. This time he was going to give
me a watch. Do you think I might ask him to give
me the money instead ?"
I really don't know," said Mademoiselle Brunot,
doubtfully.. "Besides, you have looked forward to this
watch for months. How shall you like to go without
Of course it would be a disappointment, but then
it would save poor Mary Anne so much sorrow."
Mademoiselle Brunot did not feel sure that Mrs
12 Alice's Watch.
Travers would approve Alice's plan, so no more was said
about it then. But as soon as they got home, Alice
told her mother what she wished to do. Mrs. Travers
did not answer immediately, and Alice was afraid that
You don't think it wrong, mamma, or that grand-
papa would be displeased ?" she said, anxiously.
Neither one or the other, dear child; I was only
considering whether you had sufficiently counted the
I think so, mamma. I know quite how much I
should care for the watch, but I should like to give it
up too. I think our Lord would accept a child's
offering this time, mamma," said Alice, humbly.
"Will you write to grandpapa ?"
Not to-day," said her mother, kissing her. You
must think more about it. Next week you may ask
him, if you still wish it."
Alice went away, feeling very happy, and though
occasionally the thought of the watch cost her a pang,
she always dismissed the thought as ungenerous, and
remained steadfast to her purpose.
Christmas Eve, as we have said, fell on a Tuesday,
so all the decorations were finished the day before.
The house looked very bright, and the church was
pronounced to be a complete success. They were to
give a child's party the next day, and looked forward
Alice's Watch. 13
to seeing a large magic lantern, besides playing at snap-
dragon, bullet pudding, and many other Christmas
Mrs. Travers went upstairs after the children had
been sent to bed, and found Alice looking out of a
large oriel window which was at the top of the stair-
case. She had lingered to admire the bright moonlight
as it fell upon the stems of the leafless trees, and cast
dark shadows across the turf, and watched it shim-
mering in the broad sheet of water at the end of the
garden. The sky was deep blue, and studded with
myriads of stars. Alice's quick ear caught the sound
of the distant church bells; she opened the window to
hear more clearly. Very soft and musical they sounded
in the still night air.
"Falling at intervals upon the ear
In cadence sweet, now dying all away,"
as if heralding the approach of Christmas, and telling
again that old, old story which for eighteen hundred
years has stirred the depths of men's hearts, and been
the strength and consolation of the many weary souls
that have lived and died since first the angels pro-
claimed the glad tidings of Peace on earth and good
will to men."
"I thought you were in bed by this time, Alice,"
said her mother, at last.
"Oh! mamma, I could not go to bed, it is so
14 Alice's Watch.
beautiful here. Don't you think that the real Christmas
Eve must have been a night like this ? The bells seem
to repeat what the angels said so long ago."
You seem as fond of Christmas as I am," said
her mother, smiling; I hope you will have a merry
"I don't think it is that part .of Christmas I care
for," said Alice, shyly.
You must go to bed now, or you will not enjoy
any part of it," said her mother, kissing her.
Alice obeyed, and spent a very happy Christmas
Day in her own way, which was not exactly like the
other children's. The next day she begged her mother
to write about her watch. Her mother advised her to
do it herself. She wrote in no little trepidation, but
received a very kind answer from her grandfather by
return of post, inclosing three five-pound notes. Alice
felt almost bewildered at having so much money in her
possession, and took it to her mother to take care of it
When may I take it to Mary Anne, mamma?"
"She is coming to dine here on New Year's Day.
You could give it to her then as a New Year's gift."
New Year's Eve came, and with itthe box of presents
from grandpapa. Colonel Travers opened it, and
distributed the parcels according to their address, but
there was none for Alice.
Alice's Watch. I5
Why, Alice, your present must have been mislaid,"
said her father in surprise.
"No, it's all right," said Alice, quickly; "please
don't ask me now," she whispered. "I'll tell you another
"Yes, it's all right," said her mother "People can't
eat their cake and have it too; can they, Alice ?"
"A cake exclaimed Willie; "was Alice's present
a cake; and has she eaten it all up already ?"
All laughed at Willie's want of comprehension, and
it served to divert the general attention from his sister.
The next day Mrs. Evans brought her children to
"May I see her alone, mamma?" asked Alice,
Yes, certainly, in my room; I will send her there."
Alice knew that she should feel shy in any case, but
still more if others were present. She laid down the
bank notes on the table before Mrs. Evans, only
"I have brought you a New Year's gift, Mary
This for me! Impossible! Oh, Miss Alice, you
have saved us all;" and the poor woman burst into
I am so glad," said Alice. "'I like a New Year to
16 Alice's Watch.
I can't stay here," she said, eagerly taking Alice's
hand and kissing it; I must go and tell George. It
will make him so happy. I'll come again for the
children. I could not eat dinner now." She almost
ran out of the room, and Alice saw her flying across
the park in the direction of the village.
Alice went to a children's party that evening, and
several people came up and asked what her grand-
father's present had been this year, and again and again
she had to repeat that she had none to show. Her
mother fancied that at last she looked annoyed.
"Never mind, darling. It is another offering; you
wont grudge it."
Oh no, mamma; how could you think so ? It's
only that I don't know what to say."
Alice Travers felt very happy as she laid her head on her
pillow that night. It is true that she waited long before
she became the possessor of a watch, but she never re-
gretted the sacrifice she had made. On the contrary,
in after years, the Christmas of 1854 was enshrined in
her memory as a very happy one, and, above all, it had
enabled her fully to realize the words of our Lord,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
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