The Baldam Library
SANTA CLAUS ON A LARK
OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES
WASHINGTON GLADDEN -
THE CENTURY CO.
Copyright, 1890, by THE CENTURY Co.
THE DEVINNE PRESB.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I SANTA CLAUS ON A LARK . . I
II A CHRISTMAS DINNER WITH THE MAN IN THE MOON. 27
III TOM NOBLE'S CHRISTMAS ... 50
IV THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A WOOD-SLED 68
v AN ANGEL IN AN ULSTER ... .90
VI MR. HALIBURTON TODD'S SURPRISE PARTY. 114
VII EMIL'S CHRISTMAS GIFT . . 133
VIII SANTA CLAUS IN THE PULPIT .. 157
SANTA CLAUS ON A LARK
ON a certain twenty-fourth day of December, about
four o'clock in the afternoon, if you had been
looking in at the front windows of the Merchants' and
Manufacturers' Bank, in the city of Smokopolis, you
would have seen a big book, lying open on a desk,
shut itself up with a sounding smack, spring into the
air, and go flying to its place on the shelf of the vault
in the rear of the counting-room.
While you were wondering what might be the
matter with the big book, you would suddenly dis-
cover that its remarkable antics were due to the
agency of a little man whom you had hardly noticed
before, whose chubby hands had closed the book,
lifted it above his head, and borne it swiftly to its
resting-place. Now that the big book is out of
sight, you get a better look at the little man, as he
skips back from the vault, plucks a pen from one ear
and a pencil from the other, lays them down upon
the rack of his inkstand, and then steps briskly across
the floor again to the anteroom, whence he brings
Santa Claus on a Lark
forth a gray overcoat with fur collar; into this he
quickly plunges, and sets a visorless sealskin cap
daintily on his head. All these movements are swift
and sure, but noiseless; you would scarcely hear his
step if you were in the counting-room; he opens the
door of the anteroom, and shuts it without- any clat-
ter; he is as spry and as sly and as silent as a
Little? Well, I should say so! About five feet
three in his high-heeled boots; plump figure; ruddy
face with no suspicion of beard; bright gray eyes; curl-
ing chestnut hair; nose like a Seckel pear; and pursy
little bud of a mouth, ready on the shortest notice to
blossom into a smile. How old? I give it up. If I
should say that he is twenty you would believe it; and
if I should put him down at forty you would not dispute
it. He is one of those plump, fresh, cheery, people who
never grow old.
He has donned his overcoat, and stands pulling on
his fur gloves and looking out of the window at the
softly-falling snow before any of the clerks have discov-
ered his movements. Then Finch, the paying-teller,
looks up quickly and says with a smile: Hello, Ben!
Off for the night?"
"Yes, and for the morrow, too," answers the little
man in a chirping tone.
"Of course. A good holiday to you, old chap!
You 've earned it, if anybody has."
"Thank you, sir. Your saying so will help to make
Santa Claus on a Lark
Good-night, Ben I "
Merry Christmas, Ben! "
Such are the hearty words that follow him as he
hurries away. It is evident that he is a favorite among
As he walks up the busy street, dodging the porters
rushing out of the stores with boxes and bundles, and
the shoppers hurrying home with their hands full of
parcels, and their eyes still turning to the bright show-
windows, he gets ever and anon a bow and a friendly
word from the persons whom he meets-greetings
which he returns with a sprightly courtesy. Two
clerical-looking gentlemen pause and shake hands with
him, the one introducing him to the other. It is Doctor
Adams of the Third Presbyterian Church who knows
the little man, and who tells his companion, after they
have parted with him, something of his history. Let
Benoni Benaiah Benjamin, that is his name," says
the Doctor, laughing.
My, what a name! answers the other. Is he a
Hebrew, pray ?"
Oh, no; he is the son of a Puritan Yankee who
settled in ,Western Pennsylvania years ago. He was
an only child, and his father and mother were killed in
a railway accident when he was about twelve years old;
the company gave him a position as train newsboy and
kept a kindly watch over him; he was steady and
frugal, saved his money and took a term or two at a
commercial college; then he took a place as bookkeeper
Santa Claus on a Lark
in a bank down street, and has now been there ten
years. He is a first-class bookkeeper and one of the
best known and best loved men in the city. I don't
know why he is so popular. He is very quiet, one of
the properest little men you ever saw; never says or
does an undignified thing; never takes a prominent
part in public affairs; never blows his trumpet on the
streets when he bestows his alms, so nobody knows
what charitable deeds he may do, though there is a
general impression that he is a very generous giver.
Whatever good he does he manages to keep well hid-
den. I don't think I have another man in my church
whose influence is, on the whole, more salutary and
helpful than that of little Ben Benjamin."
Meantime the little man, whose ears might have
burned if they had not been tingling with the keen
Christmas frost, has turned into a broad avenue, and is
hurrying homeward. The snow falls faster and faster;
the sleighing, which was somewhat worn, will be thor-
Through the gate that opens before a pretty cottage
the little man passes, and lets himself in with a latch-
key at the front door. A kindly faced old lady comes
forward to meet him, takes from his hands his scarf and
his cap, and leads him into the little drawing-room,
where a bright fire is glowing in the grate. Good Mrs.
Snowden has had Ben Benjamin as her sole boarder for
ten years, and the business interest of the landlady and
the stately courtesy of the hostess are by this time
wholly swallowed up in the motherly affection with
Santa Claus on a Lark
which she has learned to regard him. He has taken in
her heart the place that belonged to her own son, who
died just before Ben came to live with her. The rock-
ing-chair that he likes is drawn up by the fire, and the
evening paper lies within reach on a stand at his elbow.
But the little man shows no interest in the news of the
day; his mind is evidently preoccupied. He sits with
his feet upon the fender, looking into the blazing coals,
and musing while the fire burns.
It is snowing fast, Mr. Benjamin," the landlady
"Very fast; fast enough to make a lovely Christ-
mas counterpane in an hour. An inch or two must
have fallen already."
Will you drive to-night, as usua? "
Certainly; the ponies need exercise, and I don't
mind the snow."
When Thomas came in, after feeding the ponies,"
Mrs. Snowden continues, he said that an expressman
had just brought a barrel addressed to you to be left at
the stable. Christmas gifts for the ponies, I dare say."
Likely enough laughed Ben. Of course Santa
Claus would n't forget them."
The maid now announces supper. After it is finished
Ben dons his overcoat and his warm Arctic overshoes,
and is ready for his customary evening drive.
Don't sit up for me," he says carelessly to Mrs.
Snowden. I shall take a long drive to-night, and it
may be late before I return."
The landlady lifts her eyebrows slightly; this is
Santa Claus on a Lark
unwonted behavior; but her confidence in her protlge
allows no questioning. So Ben sallies forth, bidding
her good-night, and leaving her to speculate on his
It must, by this time, be as evident to my readers as
it was to Mrs. Snowden that there is something unusual
on the mind of our hero; and it is impossible any
longer to hide the secret which'he had so carefully con-
cealed. The truth is that this quiet, kindly, proper little
man has determined that to-night, for once in his life,
he will go off on a regular lark. He has been cher-
ishing this purpose for three or four weeks. Perhaps
the first suggestion of it came into his mind on the after-
noon when the snow first fell. He was driving along
Elm Avenue in his cute little cutter, drawn by the pranc-
ing brown ponies that are now so well known in Smok-
opolis, when he heard, through the resonant air that
often accompanies a snowstorm, a little girl standing
on a corner say to her companion: My! would n't he
make a lovely Santa Claus "
"WJould n't he though! exclaimed the other.
"He 's just the right size."
And what a jolly little face, too Only Santa Claus
has whiskers, I think."
Ben laughed softly when he heard it, and then kept
thinking it over.
Would n't it be fun to be a veritable Santa Claus,
and go about giving gifts ?-not to take anybody into
the secret, of course; to surprise everybody with pres-
ents that nobody could account for; or, perhaps, to let
Santa Claus on a Lark
them have a glimpse of the messenger, hurriedly depos-
iting his favors and swiftly departing, unheralded and
unexplained. The more he thought of it, the more he
was fascinated by the notion. But it would not do to
attempt it here in Smokopolis; he would almost cer-
tainly be discovered. It could only be done in some
secluded country place where there were no throngs
and no gas-lamps on the streets. Springdale--that was
the very place! It was a village thirteen miles north of
the city; one long street running east and west, crossed
at its western extremity by the Gridiron Railway, and
lying sheltered and secure from the noises of the world
in a lovely valley, the abode of peace. The houses on
either side the long street were well separated; and
there was not enough movement on the street to inter-
fere with such a shadowy visitation as Ben was contem-
plating. So the plan had gradually shaped itself in his
He would collect, one by one, a large number of
gifts of all sorts, suitable for old and young; on Christ-
mas eve, after dark, he would steal away to Springdale,
watch his chances, and make his distribution in ways
that might then be opened to him. The barrel which
had been delivered that afternoon at the stable con-
tained the store which was thus to be dispensed. He
had purchased these gifts in many places; and had kept
them in a private closet of his own in the basement of
the bank building; the expressman had brought the
barrel to the stable by his order. This is the secret that
is hidden in the breast of Benoni Benaiah Benjamin, as
Santa Claus on a Lark
he bids Mrs. Snowden good-night, and trots briskly
down the garden walk in the direction of the stable,
where the brown ponies, Dunder and Blixen, who know
their master's step, are whinnying to give him greeting.
These ponies are almost the only luxury little Ben
allows himself; they have been in his possession now
for four years; and every day, after banking hours, Ben
is whirling along some country road behind them, filling
his lungs with the sweet air of the hills and his heart
with the pure delight of motion.
Ben opens the stable-door, and is greeted by an
audible horse-giggle from the ponies, as they take from
his fingers the accustomed lump of sugar with great
gusto, and rub their brown cheeks against his red
cheeks in a very loving fashion.
Ben now lights his lantern, casts off his overcoat,
seizes a hatchet, and quickly unheads the mysterious
barrel; then he transfers its contents to his sleigh, care-
fully placing them so that he may easily lay his hands
on them-dolls in one pile, games in another, books by
themselves, toys for the little folk in a separate heap,
two or three warm little shawls for the shoulders of old
ladies (shawls such as Ben had given to his landlady
last winter and found her often rejoicing in), and a
variety of miscellaneous articles of which he hopes to
make some fitting disposal. From the bottom of the
barrel he pulls out a white cap, made of the fur of
the Arctic fox, and a flowing white wig and beard.
Arrayed in these disguises, he glances at his face
as revealed in the bit of looking-glass that Thomas
Santa Claus on a Lark
keeps for his stable toilet, and breaks into a gleeful
laugh. Suddenly he checks himself, covers his mouth
with his hands, and goes dancing across the stable
floor. Such a jolly little Santa Claus as he is, with his
keen eyes, his little dumpling of a nose, and his red
cheeks blooming out of this shock of white hair His
fur coat will complete the costume.
"Hey, Dunder! Ho, Blixen! he softly cries, as
he confronts the ponies. "Did you ever see Santa
Claus ? "
The ponies answer with a snort, starting back in
their stalls, but Ben's voice re-assures them. Quickly
now he flings on the harness, from which he removes
the bells; and tucking his gray fur lap-robe carefully
around his treasures, he puts his lighted lantern between
his feet, underneath the robe, and drives away. Out
through the alley, across the street, and down another
unfrequented lane he slips swiftly along, and soon is be-
yond the street-lamps, out in the open country. Dunder
and Blixen are in their gayest mood; they fill'their
nostrils with the winter wind, and spin away right
It is now about seven o'clock, and there are thirteen
miles to cover; but Ben does not wish to reach Spring-
dale too early; the ponies will easily make it by half-past
eight. Dearborn Woods, a stretch of forest three miles
long, lies just ahead of him; and Dunder and Blixen
plunge into its somber arches at a brisk pace. It is a
familiar road to them, and they are wont to quicken
their gait when they enter its shadows. Now the long-
Santa Claus on a Lark
pent-up 'mirth of the little man can safely effervesce,
and his cheery laugh rings through the woods in clear,
"Oho ho! ho! he cries; "is n't this a jolly lark,
indeed? Who would ever have suspected you, Benoni
Benjamin, of cutting this kind of a caper ? What would
Doctor Adams and the church folk say if they caught
you in this ridiculous rig? But they won't catch you,
eh? No; they won't. Ho! ho! ho! The Doctor said
one day in the Bible class that Ben in Hebrew words
means son of something or other: Benoni Benaiah
Benjamin, what are you the son of to-night? I have
it. The college boys sing it:
"'I 'm the son of a son of a
Son of a son of a
Son of a gambolier.'
That 's what I am? Hey! Oho! ho!"
The little man trolls this merry stave-it happens to
be all he knows of the song-over and over again, and
laughs and shouts till Dunder and Blixen catch the
infection, and, shaking their heads and snorting vocifer-
ously, they break into a gallop. If there had been any
elves or goblins in Dearborn Woods that night they
would surely have come forth from their hiding-places
at the sound of Ben Benjamin's laughter, but neither
they nor any of humankind responded to his merri-
ment; and when he emerged from the woods and the
lights of the farm-houses began to re-appear by the
roadside, his jubilation was subdued to a merry little
Santa Claus on a Lark
laugh, and the ponies sped over the snow with scarcely
The soft-falling snow slowly increases in depth as
they go northward, and the driver compels his eager
coursers to take a more leisurely pace. At this rate, six
or eight inches of snow will be added during the night
to the well-worn sleighing-more than enough for
Christmas uses. Thus far Ben has neither met nor
overtaken a single wayfarer; but, as he reaches the top
of a long hill, he sees a light approaching from the
direction of Springdale. It is Doctor Horton, the phy-
sician of that village, going out on some professional
errand and carrying his lantern in his buggy.
Here's a go! says Ben to himself. How shall
we dodge that lantern ? It's some old covey that will
want to talk, I '11 venture. Look alive there, Blixen;
you and Dunder must get me out of this."
The light draws near, and as the horses meet, the
Doctor turns the light of the lantern full upon Ben's
face. His own eyes are as big as dollars.
"Je-ru-sha! he exclaims (it is the only expression
of the sort he allows himself). What's this, anyhow ? "
The passage is somewhat narrow, and Ben is giving
strict attention to his ponies. His only answer is a little
Who are you? What's your name? Where on
earth did you come from?" cries Doctor Horton hur-
riedly, his voice quivering a little.
"Oho! ho! ho!" laughed Ben, with a tone as
musical and as gay as the horns of Elfland.
.Santa Claus on a Lark
Good-natured laugh! says the Doctor; nothing
impish in that, I '11 guarantee."
In a moment, the travelers are well past each other,
and Ben's ponies are trotting down the hill.
I say! cries the Doctor, turning on his seat and
holding up his lantern.
Say on! cries Ben hilariously.
I 've a mind to follow," says the Doctor aloud,
turning his horse's head. But Ben's little ponies spring
into their best gait, showing the Doctor at once how
vain it would be for him with his aged steed to under-
take the pursuit. Down the hill they go at a tearing
pace, while the voice of Ben is borne back on the wings
of the wind:
"I 'm the son of a son of a
Son of a son of a
Son of a gambolier."
"Well," ejaculated the Doctor, drawing a long
breath, "you are about the spryest little spook I have
met in my travels. None of the Smokopolis boys are
likely to be off on this lonely road at this time of night,
and you don't belong in Springdale, that I know.
You 're a conundrum, and I give you up. But I don't
believe that you are bent on mischief. Too gay a laugh,
and too merry an eye for that." And turning his horse's
head southward, the Doctor jogs on.
After this Ben meets no travelers until he turns the
corner, near the blacksmith shop, at the eastern extremity
of Springdale street. Here a belated farmer, upon an
empty wood-rack, scans the small establishment inquisi-
Santa Claus on a Lark
tively, but it is dark, and Ben has flung the corner of
his lap-robe over his head, so that the gaze of the
curious rustic is scantily rewarded. Now he is driving
down the village street, and the shafts of light are shot
athwart the way, through the falling snow, from the
windows of the houses on either side. In default of
street lamps, all the villagers open their shutters and
draw .their curtains, in the winter evenings, that the light
of the fireside may guide and cheer the traveler.
It is now nine o'clock, for the deepening snow has
somewhat retarded our amateur Santa Claus. But it is
a very good time for him to make a reconnaissance of the
village. Through these open windows he can gain
many hints as to the best disposition of his bounty. He
will drive carefully and slowly down on one side of the
wide street and back on the other, keeping his eyes open
and noting the houses; then he will go round again, a
little later, and make his distribution.
Steady, Dunder Slowly, Blixen he says softly:
"let's look a minute!" They are stopping before a
low, broad cottage, with sloping roof; a white-haired
woman is sitting by the evening lamp. "That gray
shoulder-shawl will fit you beautifully! says Ben. A
little girl about eight years old is sitting by the side of
the old lady-grandmother and granddaughter beyond
a doubt: the maiden is working away for dear life on
some bit of worsted, and glancing stealthily over her
shoulder, now and then, at her father who sits reading
on the other side of the table. Good chuckles Ben,
who takes in the situation at a glance; you shall have
Santa Claus on a Lark
one of the work-boxes, little Busy-fingers! So while
the ponies stand, he writes by the light of his lantern,
under the lap-robe, on two cards, For the old Lady,"
and, For the fair-haired Girl,"-pins the one on the
shawl, and shuts the other into the work-box; makes a
bundle of them, and lays them together in a corner of
the sleigh. So he goes from house to house, picking
out the presents, slipping them into big paper bags that
he has provided; one bag for each house, and piling the
bags in regular order in his sleigh. Some of the houses
refuse to give him any clew to the age and quality of
their occupants; but before he has made the circuit of
the street he has found places for all his small wares, and
he feels well assured that the greater number of them
will be fittingly bestowed. A good half-hour has been
taken in this reconnaissance; when it is finished he scuds
back toward the eastern end of the street to begin the
distribution. Very few pedestrians have appeared on
the sidewalks, and these he has managed to dodge by
skillfully tarrying in the dark places between the houses
until they were past. But now, a boy of ten, carrying
a bundle, and whistling blithely, plunges out from the
walk and cries:
Let me ride?"
Ben is too good-natured to refuse, and the boy
fastens himself to the side of the sleigh, clinging to his
Slick little team you have there," he says.
"Well, I reckon!" answers Ben in his tuneful
Santa Claus on a Lark
Can they go?" asks the boy.
"Yes, pretty well for little fellows."
Ben wishes to answer no more questions, so he
quickly reverses the order of the colloquy and becomes
"What's your name, boy ?"
"Any relation to Jack the Giant-Killer?"
"Oh, yes; I 'm his great-grandfather's second
cousin," answers Jack, promptly.
"Oho! ho!" laughs Ben. "You 're an old one,
you are! Any younger ones at your house."
"Yes, sir! We 've a new boy baby there not four
weeks old. And then there 's Sis; she 's been up to
Grandma's now for a month, and she's coming' down to-
night on the 'commodation. There 's the whistle now "
Is she coming alone ?"
Yes; Uncle Tom's put her on the train, and Papa
will meet her at the depot."
What 's her name ?"
How old is she?"
"'Bout five or six, I guess."
"Where do you live ?"
Right up there; big white house; left hand side."
All the while, Jack's eyes have been on the ponies;
he has not once raised them to the driver's face, and he
could have seen but little if he had, for they have been
passing a space vacant of houses, where all was dark.
But now, just as they are drawing near to Jack's home,
Santa Claus on a Lark
the ruling passion of the boy seizes its last chance to
Let 's see 'em go!"
Nothing loth, Ben whistles to the ponies, and they
spring at once into a rattling pace. Jack is delighted,
. .., .
OHO! HO! HO!' LAUGHS THE LITTLE M AN, AS THE BOY TUMBLES BACKWARD INTO THE SNOW."
but his delight is only momentary; they are opposite
his house in ten seconds, and the ponies are reined in
to let him dismount. He lifts his eye to the face of the
charioteer just as the light from the window strikes it,
and the look of amazement that overspreads his counte-
nance tickles Ben to the very end of his toes.
"Oho! ho! ho!" laughs the little man, while the
Santa Claus on a Lark
boy suddenly relaxes his hold upon the sleigh and tum-
bles backward into the snow. Quick as a flash he picks
himself up and peers through the storm at the flying
"Je-mi-ma Cripps gasps Jack; if that is n't the
old fellow himself, then I hope I may never see him "
The boy rushes into the house, while the little man
speeds away to the upper end of the street to set forth
on his benignant errand.
"W-w-what d' ye think I saw just now?" cries
Jack, bursting into his mother's room, his teeth fairly,
Sh-h my son, you '11 wake the baby. But what
was it?" asks the pale lady hurriedly, perceiving the
S-s-a-anta Claus !"
"Santa Claus? Where was he? How do you
know?" asks the mother, her anxious look relaxing
into an expression of curiosity and amusement.
Right out here in the street. I rode up with him
from down there by Billy Townsend's house."
Rode with him?"
Y-y-es 'm I caught on his sleigh an' rode with
him. He had the cutest little ponies!"
"What did he say to you?" queries Mrs. Kil-
bourne, beginning to laugh.
D-don't know what he did say," stammers Jack;
"it scared everything out o' my head when I saw him.
Never looked up at all to see who it was till we were
right opposite our house, 'n' then the light shone right
San,/a Claus on a Lark
into his face. My! what a cunning little chap. I don't
believe he-'s more 'n that high,"-and Jack measures
with his hand a stature less than his own,-" and his
face and his eyes look as if he were about five years
old, and his hair and whiskers look as if he were about
five hundred; and he had a little fur cap and a fur coat,
I think; and he laughed,-you ought to have heard
What made him laugh ?"
"To see how s'prised I was, I guess. He asked
me 'f I was any relation to Jack the Giant-Killer, 'n I
told him I was his great-grandfather, or something. I
thought he was poking fun at me, 'n' I thought I 'd give
him as good as he sent. Cracky! If I'd known who
it was that I was talking' to, I 'd have been a little more
pertickler'bout what I said. He was a jolly little chap,
Jack!" cries his mother, "your imagination
must have made most of this. I can hardly believe that
you have really seen anything quite so strange as
Now, Mother Kilbourne!" replies Jack, deeply
grieved and somewhat indignant; I guess I have
eyes and ears; and I guess I know what I see with my
eyes and hear with my ears; and I tell you, it is just
exactly as I 've told you. I never believed in Santa
Claus before; but when a fellow hangs on to his sleigh
and rides with him a quarter of a mile or so, then he
knows; and there 's no use talking."
"Well, my son, it is very curious, I admit. But I
wish your father would come. He must have had time
Santa Claus on a Lark
to walk here since the train arrived. Is it still snowing
hard ?" asks the lady as she rises and walks- slowly to
the window, and, shutting her face between her hands,
gazes out into the storm.
"'Deed it is! answers Jack. Snow's most up to
my knees now. Sis will have a gay time wading
"Your father will be obliged to carry her, I fear,"
replies Mrs. Kilbourne. I think," she adds, after a
moment, "that he must have stopped by the way at
Judge Gray's; I know that there was some matter of
important business between them. Our little Lil will be
very tired, I fear."
Jack sits looking into the glowing grate, and asking
his mother all sorts of questions about the legend of
St. Nicholas; who he was, anyhow; if he was really a
man; and when he lived; and how long ago; and what
he did; and what about the Bible stories that tell of
spirits and angels that appeared to men-a sharp fire
of puzzling questions, which his mother answers,
dubiously and absently, for her heart is a little troubled
about the child for whose coming she waits impatiently.
Meanwhile Ben is speeding upon his errand of
good-will with many a merry experience. Halting his
ponies in front of each favored house he seizes the
parcel prepared for its inmates, runs to a lighted win-
dow, taps on the pane, holds aloft his treasure in full
sight, makes a low bow, skips to the door and lays it
down upon the sill, and then jumps into his cutter and
is off in a twinkling. The children run to the window
half in terror, half in transport; they gaze after the
Santa Claus on a Lark
vanishing sprite with their hearts in their mouths; then
they go timidly to the door and take with undissembled
glee the goods so mysteriously provided for them. As
for the older folks, they are as much puzzled as the chil-
dren; no one can find any clew to the identity of 'this
unearthly visitant. If Ben could have looked into all
these homes, and could have heard the admiring out-
cries, and could have known how much of surprise and
curiosity and innocent mirth and thankfulness his pranks
were producing, he would have been fully satisfied with
the success of his experiment. Finally he arrives in
front of Mr. Kilbourne's gate, for he has reserved a
part of his bounty for the children whose descriptive
list Jack has given him. There is a light tap on the
window which opens upon the veranda, and Mrs. Kil-
bourne starts. There he is, in full view, bowing low,
waving his parcel in the air, then bounding away with
the spring of an antelope.
"There, Mother Kilbourne!" cries Jack, his teeth
chattering again; n-now what have you to say? "
Blessings on us! exclaims the pale lady; what
does it mean?"
They reach the window, like all the rest, just in time
to see the ponies trot away, and to verify Jack's descrip-
tion in every detail.
"Well, I never!" cries Mrs. Kilbourne. "Run to
the door, Jack, and see what he has left!"
A rubber rattle for the baby,*a volume of "Baby
World" for Lil, and Historic Boys" for Jack,-these
were the gifts drawn forth from the paper bag with
great delight and wonderment.
Santa Claus on a Lark
"Now you '11 own up, won't you, Mother?"
demands Jack triumphantly. I did n't imagine it all,
No, Jack; you are a good reporter; your account
was very accurate."
"Well, how do you explain him ?"
"I can't explain him," answers the mother. I
have n't the least idea who he is-some good being,
I am sure."
Right you are !" says Jack, in a tone the solem-
nity of which strangely contrasts with his school-boy
phraseology. But here come Father and Lil! "
The boy runs to admit the tardy comers, but his
father is alone. "Where 's Lil?" cries Jack, as he
opens the door.
"Is n't she here?" demands Mr. Kilbourne anx-
No, sir,; we thought you went to the station after
Mr. Kilbourne pushes into the room, where the pale
mother stands, trembling and anxious.
We shall find her soon," he says. Did n't that
Johnson boy bring you my note ?"
"What note ? No! Nobody brought any note,"
cries Mrs. Kilbourne.
The young rascal! I sent him with a line to tell
you that I could not leave my office at that hour, and
that Jack must go to the train for Lillie."
"And so the, poor child found no one waiting for
her there. Where can she have gone?"
Wait! cries the father. I '11 telephone to Wil-
Santa Claus on a Lark
kinson at the depot. That 's where she is beyond a
doubt. He has taken her into his office to keep her till
Mr. Kilbourne rushes to the telephone.
Hello, Central! Give me the Gridiron depot.
That you, Wilkinson? Kilbourne 's talking. Did my
little girl come down on the accommodation train from
Smokopolis ?-What ?- Did n't what?"
Mr. Kilbourne turns away from the telephone rather
pale, with an anxious look about his eyes; but, for his
wife's sake, he says cheerfully:
Well; Wilkinson says that he saw a little girl step
off the rear end of the train; the conductor helped her
off and told her to run into the waiting-room; Wilkin-
son had some baggage to look after, and when he was
through with that the child was out of sight. He sup-
posed that some one had come for her."
"0 my poor little lamb!" cries the mother, piteously.
"Where is she? Out in this merciless storm What
shall I do?"
Don't cry, Mother! says Jack, cheerily. She 's
down the street somewhere; she 's gone into some-
"They would have sent us word," says Mrs. Kil-
"Well, we '11 find her, anyhow," says Jack.
Mr. Kilbourne has been thinking hard with knitted
brows and compressed lips. Now he speaks: "Jack,
you stay here, and take care of your mother. I '11 go
down street. As soon as I get word of her, I '11 call to
you from the nearest telephone."
Santa Claus on a Lark
He gently leads the trembling lady to the sofa, and
turns to go.
"THERE HE IS-THE SAME LITTLE MAN, AND HE TOSSES LIL ABOVE HIS HEAD!
Hark! the gate is opening! There is a quick foot-
step on the porch-on the veranda! Mr. Kilbourne
Santa Claus on a Lark
pauses; Mrs. Kilbourne springs to her feet. There he
is-the same little man, and Lil is in his arms He
tosses her above his head; he lets her gently down upon
the veranda; he makes the same low bow; he springs
from the porch and runs away.
Mr. Kilbourne rushes to the door.
"Hello!" he cries. "Who are you, my friend?
Say!-won't you let me- ?"
But the little man is in the sleigh and the ponies
are in motion. All they hear is Ben s laugh as he
drives away. Oho! ho! ho!"
Mr. Kilbourne picks up the little girl, who stands
half dazed upon the porch, and hurries into the house.
Her mother clasps the child in her arms and covers
her face with kisses. Poor little bairn! Her garments
are wet and her curls are matted with snow, but her
eyes are bright.
"Was n't it beautiful for Santa Claus to bring
me home?" she cries.
"Yes, my darling; where did. he find you?"
"Oh, up here in the road. Papa was n't there
when the train stopped, an' I was in suck a hurry
to go home I started right off; an' I went along
down that way, an' then I turned into the street."
"The little midget!" exclaims Mr. Kilbourne,
"she went off up Long Lane!"
"There was n't any houses," continues the little
wanderer, "'so I kept going on, an' on; an' it
snowed so I could n't see; an' by and by I came
to another rdad,-"
Santa Claus on a Lark
"Yes, she must have turned out on the Smok-
opolis road," shouts Jack.
"An' I kept going on, an' then I was tired, an'
I sat down on a log to rest, an' I heard a team
coming,-and it was Santa Claus,-and he turned
an' brought me home."
"How did he know where your home was?"
asked the father.
"Oh, he asked me what was my name, and I
told him it was Lillie Kilbourne, and .he said:
"'Oh, yes, I know where you live! I've beed
to your house once to-night.' "
"How did you know it was Santa Claus?"
asked her mother.
"Why, I saw him, did n't I? When he lifted
up the robe to tuck me in, there was a lantern be-
tween his legs,-he said it was his stove,-an' the
light shined right up into his face, an' I saw him
as plain as anything. 'Sides, I asked him if he
was n't Santa Claus, an' he laughed and said,
'That's what some folks call me!'
"I don't know whether he is a saint or an
angel," says Mrs. Kilbourne, solemnly; "but this I
know, my darling, he has been a messenger of good
But what did he mean when he' said he had
been here before to-night?" asks Mr. Kilbourne.
Now it is Jack's turn to talk. While his mother
strips off the wet garments and puts the little girl
into her warm bed Jack rehearses to his father,
Santa Claus on a Lark
open-eyed with wonder, the tale of the evening,
with which we are familiar. His father listens,
questions, shakes his head, and gives it up.
Many of the gossips of Springdale wondered
that night, and the next day, and are wondering
still, over this mystery, but they are not likely soon
to unravel it, for the ponies went leisurely back
that night to Smokopolis. It was about one o'clock
when they began munching their oats in their com-
fortable stalls; the wig and the beard that had
formed so perfect a disguise were hidden in the
granary; the little man let himself softly in at Mrs.
Snowden's front door, and went noiselessly to his
room. It was a happy heart that beat, on that
early Christmas morning, in the breast of Benoni
Benaiah Benjamin; but the secret of its happiness
will never be discovered, for his laughing lips will
not open to reveal it, even in his dreams.
A CHRISTMAS DINNER WITH THE MAN
IN THE MOON
" I'M growled Uncle Jack. "What will you do to
11 me if I won't tell you a story ?"
"Hang you on the Christmas-tree !" shouted Joe.
"Kiss you a thousand times!" cried Sue.
Hold! Enough!" exclaimed the besieged uncle.
"I '11 come right down. Look here! You have n't
heard about that wonderful machine, lately invented by
somebody, which shows you things that are going on
hundreds of miles away?"
"Tell us about it," chants the full battalion.
"Well, I don't know much about that; but I have
an instrument of my own that will do wonderful things.
By looking into it, you can not only see people that are
far off, you can hear what they are saying and tell what
they are thinking; and what is more, you can look back
and see what has happened to them, and look ahead
and see what is going to happen to them for hours and
days to come."
28 c/ Christmas 'Dinner with the (Man in the Mloon.
"Oh, uncle I Give us a look into it, won't you ?"
"No; I can't do that. But, if you like, I '11 take a
look into it myself, and report what I see."
Presently, Uncle Jack returnedfrom his room, where
all sorts of curious machines were stored,--microscopes,
electrical batteries, and what not,-bringing with him a
curious-looking instrument. It was composed of two
shining cylinders of brass, mounted like small tele-
scopes, and placed at an angle, so that one end of one
of them was quite near to one end of the other, and the
other ends were wide apart. Between the adjacent ends
was a prism of beautifully polished glass.
Uncle Jack placed this instrument on a stand in the
bay window, and sat down before it.
Now you must all retire and be seated," he said.
" I do not believe that the machinery will work unless
you keep perfectly still. You must n't interrupt me
with any questions. When I am through, I will try to
explain anything that you do not understand."
"All right; go ahead! The battalion was soon at
parade rest, and Uncle Jack proceeded.
The first thing that comes into the field of vision is
a railway-station, about one hundred and fifty miles from
this city. A boy is just entering the rear door of the
last car of the afternoon express, and quietly depositing
himself and his little Russia bag on the short seat at
the end of the car. He has just taken from his pocket
a letter addressed to Mark Howland." That is his
eA Christmas 'Dinner with the cMan in the OMvoon. 29
name. His Uncle Cyrus has invited Mark to spend
Christmas with his cousins in New Liverpool, and he is
now on his way to that metropolis.
There is nothing to fear on account of the strange-
ness of the place to which he is going, for his cousins
Arthur and Clarence will meet him at the station; and
there is no reason to doubt the heartiness of his wel-
come, for his uncle's family are not at all "stuck up,"
if they do live in a fine house; and his father and
mother are not only willing, but glad to have him go;
so the happy light of expectancy shines out of his eyes.
It has been a busy day with Mark. He was up at
four in the morning to go- over the paper-route with
Horace Mills, who is to carry the morning papers for
him during his three days' absence; then there were
many little preparations to make about the house, for
Mark did not wish to take his pleasuring at the expense
of extra work for his father and mother, whose daily
burdens are heavy enough; and therefore, as far as he
can, he has anticipated the work of the three coming
days. This filled the forenoon. After dinner, there
were a few last errands for his mother, and then there
was only time to pack his bag and don his Sunday suit,
and hurry to the station for the four o'clock express.
The evening is cloudy and it is soon dark, and there
is little to see from the windows of the car. Mark
amuses himself for a while in watching the passengers;
but they happen to be an unusually decorous company,
and there is not much entertainment in that occupation.
At length, he makes himself comfortable in his corner
30 4A Christmas 'Dinner with the cM4an in the (Moon.
of the car, rests his head against the window-frame,
and gives himself up to imagining the delights of the
coming day. Presently the speed of the train slackens,
and the brakeman cries: Lunenburg; ten minutes for
refreshments; change cars for the Aerial Line! "
While Mark is observing the departure of the pas-
sengers who get down at this station, and wondering
what the "Aeirial Line" may be, he is surprised to see
his Uncle Cyrus entering the front door of the car.
"Oh, here you are, Mark!" he exclaims, as he
espies him. "Glad to see you, my boy. How you
grow! But come, bring your bag. We have changed
our plans since morning. I have had an invitation to
spend Christmas with -Sir Marmaduke Monahan, and I
am to bring my boys along. You are one of my boys
for the time being, so here you go. Arthur and Clar-
ence are waiting outside. I have telegraphed your
father, he knows all about it. Come on."
Mark picks up his bag and follows his uncle, half-
dazed by the suddenness of this change of plans.
Arthur and Clarence greet him in high glee.
Is n't this a gay old adventure ?" cries Arthur.
" You did n't expect anything like this; did you ?"
N-no," answers Mark, rather demurely. He is
not yet sure that he is glad to be cheated out of his
visit to New Liverpool. And then he asks:
But who is Sir Marmaduke Monahan ? "
"Don't you know?" cry both the boys. "Why,
he's the one they call The Man in the Moon. When
he was down here the last time, he stopped over Sunday
h Cbristmas 'Dinner with the Man in the Moon. 31
with us. Papa's one of the aldermen, you know, and
Sir Marmaduke was the guest of the city; so Papa saw
him and asked him to our house. He's just the jolliest
little old chap. He told us ever so much about his
home, and made us promise that we would visit him
sometime. This morning we got a telegram from him,
and started this afternoon on short notice."
Now it begins to come to Mark that he has read in
the papers of the establishment of an aerial line to the
moon, the result of one of Edison's wonderful inven-
The night is dark and chilly; but at the farther end
of the station a great electric light is blazing, and
thither the four travelers make their way. A long
flight of steps leads up to an elevated platform, along-
side of which, resting upon trestle-work, stands the
great aerial car. It looks a little like one of the Winans
cigar steamers; its length is perhaps one hundred and
fifty feet, and its shape is that of a cylinder, pointed at
both ends. Just forward of the middle of the car are
two enormous paddle-wheels, one on each side, not
covered in like the paddles of a North River steam-
boat, but in full view.
How soon does it start? Mark asks his uncle.
In five minutes; there is the captain now."
A man in a bright red uniform is coming out of the
station with a lantern in his hand. Following him is a
company of thirty or forty little people, whose singular
appearance strikes Mark almost dumb with astonish-
32 c .Christmas 'Dinner with the cMan in the. c7oon.
"What queer creatures are those ? he whispers.
"Those are the moon-folk," answers his uncle.
"You have never seen any of them, have you? They
are getting to be so common in the streets of New Liv-
erpool that we hardly notice them."
But what are those things around their heads ?"
"Those are the air-protectors. You know the
atmosphere of the moon is very thin; some of the
astronomers used to say that there was n't any, but
there is; only it is so extremely rare that we were not
able to discover it. The lungs of the moon-folk are,
of course, adapted to that thin atmosphere, and could
not breathe in ours any more than we could breathe
water. So when they come down to earth they wear
these globes, which are hermetically sealed around their
necks and are very strong, to protect them from our
"Are these globes made of glass?" asks Mark.
"Yes, they are: the new kind of glass, that is
annealed so that it is flexible and tough as iron."
As the curious little folk go trotting by on their way
to the car, one of them recognizes Mr. Howland, and
gives a queer little jerk of the head.
"That," says Clarence, "is Sir Marmaduke's stew-
ard. He was at our house with his master."
Now the little man halts and holds out to Mr. How-
land a tiny telephone and transmitter. Mark notes that
they communicate with a mouth-piece inside the globe
which protects the moon-man's head.
That 's the way they have to talk," said Arthur.
A/ Christmas 'Dinner with the JIan in the (Moon 33
"There is n't any air to speak of inside that glass, and
so there can't be any sound. But he manages it with
this little telephone. He hears with his teeth,-that's
the new way of hearing,-then he speaks into his
transmitter, and we can hear him.
"What was he saying?" asks Arthur, as the little
man hurries on.
Only that Sir Marmaduke is expecting us, and
that he will see us at the other end of the line," replies
"All aboard!" shouts the captain. "Earth-folk
forward; moon-folk abaft the wheel! "
Mark observes that two gang-planks run out to
"The Meteor,"-for that is the name of the aerial car,
-and that the little people are passing in over one of
them, and the earth-bprn passengers over the other.
They all are soon inside the handsome little saloon,
elliptical in shape, furnished with stuffed lounges and
easy-chairs, and a center-table with a few books and
papers, lighted by small windows of thick plate-glass,
and warmed by electric radiators. The sliding door is
shut by the guard and firmly fastened, a few strokes of
a musical bell are heard, a tremulous flutter passes
through the frame of "The Meteor," and the great
paddle-wheels begin to revolve. Mark observes that
the separate paddles of each wheel are constructed so
that, as each one begins the downward and backward
stroke, it spreads out like a fan, and then shuts up as it
begins to rise from its lowest position, so as to offer but
little resistance to the air.
34 v Christmas 'Dinner with the (Man in the JMoon
The huge ship rises slowly from its timber moor-
ings; the paddle-wheels begin to revolve with great
rapidity; the lights of the village below drop down
and down like falling stars; for a moment, a thick
mist outside hides everything from view-" The
Meteor" is passing through the clouds; in another
moment the stars above blaze out with wonderful
brilliancy, the clouds are all lying beneath,-a silvery
sea, lit by the rising moon,-and the lights of the
under world have all disappeared.
How high up are we now ?" Clarence asks.
His father turns to a barometer on the wall, with
a table of altitudes hanging beside it, and answers:
"About six miles, I judge from this table. We are
not yet fully under headway. But my ears begin to
ring, and I guess we had better be getting on our
Following Mr. Howland, the boys all go over to
the forward part of the saloon, where a gentlemanly
steward is assisting the passengers to adjust these
An elderly gentleman, who has just secured his
outfit, is returning to his seat.
Mark notices that he wears over his nose a neatly
fitting rubber cap, from the bottom of which a tube
extends to the inside pocket of his coat.
"You see," explains his uncle, "we are getting
up now where the atmosphere is very thin, and
presently there will be next to none at all. These
respirators are made for the supply of air to the
cA Christmas 'Dinner with the clan in the IMoon 35
earth-folk on their journey through space and dur-
ing their stay at the moon. Edison's wonderful
air-condenser is the invention that makes this pos-
sible. By this invention, twenty-five thousand cubic
feet of air are condensed into a solid block, about
three times as large as a good-sized pocket-book,
that will keep without aerifying in any climate.
There! He is slipping one of the bricks of con-
densed air into that pouch just now, and handing it
to that gentleman. You see that it looks a good
deal like a piece of Parian marble. The tube con-
nects the pouch containing the condensed air with
the respirator on the end of the nose, and the
moisture of the breath produces a gentle and
gradual aerification as they call it, or change of the
brick into good air."
"How long will one of those chunks of con-
densed air last?" Mark asks.
"About twenty-four hours. They can last longer,
but they are generally renewed every day."
"I should think, then," Mark answers, "that
earth-folk, while they are in the moon, would feel
like saying in their prayers, 'Give us this day our
daily breath,' as well as 'our daily bread.' "
"Perhaps," rejoined his uncle, reverently, "they
might fitly offer that prayer while they are on the
earth, too, as well as anywhere else."
"How fast are we going now?'.' Arthur inquires.
"Possibly sixty miles an hour," says his father.
"Sixty miles an hour answers Mark. "Why,
36 w1 Cbristmas 'Dinner with the (Man in the (Moon
that 's-let me see: six fours are twenty-four, six
twos are twelve, and two are fourteen. That 's only
fourteen hundred and forty miles a day, and we have
two hundred and thirty thousand miles to travel."
"Whew cries Arthur. "It will take* us more
than a hundred days-almost two hundred-to get
there at this rate."
"You don't understand," Mr. Howland explains.
"We can only go by means of these paddles
through our atmosphere."
"And that," breaks in Arthur, "is only forty-five
"It is more than that. The later conjectures of
the best astronomers,- that the atmosphere extends
about two hundred miles from the surface of the
earth, have been verified. But just as soon as we
reach the outermost limits of this atmospheric en-
velope of the earth, we strike the great electric
currents that flow between the earth and the moon.
These currents, at this time of the day, flow toward
the moon. They go with immense velocity,-prob-
ably twenty thousand miles an hour. This car is
covered, as you saw, with soft iron, and, by the
electric engines which drive the machinery, it is
converted into an immense electro-magnet, on which
these currents lay hold, sweeping the car right along
with them. There is no air to resist the motion,
you know, and you are not conscious of motion any
more than you are when drifting with the Gulf
Stream in the Atlantic."
vd Cbristmas 'Dinner with the lMan in the CIoon 37
"ALL ABOARD FOR THE MOON."
38 qc Christmas 'Diner with the (Man in the c(Moon
We shall get there, then," Mark figures, in about
twelve hours from the time we started."
Yes; if nothing happens we shall land about eight
o'clock to-morrow morning. Ahd now, as there is very
little that you can see, and as we shall have a fatiguing
day to-morrow, and ought to.start fresh, I propose that
we all lie down upon these comfortable couches and try
to get a night's rest."
The boys do not quite relish the suggestion, but
they adopt it, nevertheless, and are soon sleeping
soundly. An hour or two later, Mark awakens, and,
lifting himself on his elbow, looks out of the forward
windows. The moon is shining in, and such a moon!
Talk about dinner-plates or cart-wheels! The great
bright shield of this moon fills a vast circle of the
heavens. It is twenty times bigger than any moon he
ever saw. He takes a quarter-dollar from his pocket
and holds it before his eye at a distance of about two
inches, and the coin does not hide the planet; a bright
silver rim is visible all around it. The dark spots on
the moon's surface are now clearly seen to be deep
valleys and gorges; the mountain ranges come out in
clear relief. Mark is at first inclined to wake his
cousins; but he concludes to wait an hour or two till
the view shall be a little finer; and before he knows it,
he is sound asleep again.
He is wakened by a general stir in the saloon. The
captain is crying, "All ashore!" The passengers are
gathering their hand-luggage, and preparing to disem-
bark. How in the world, or rather in the moon, this
CA Cbris/ls 'Dinner with the an the hla te JMoon 39
landing was ever effected, Mark does not understand.
But there is no time now to ask questions, and he picks
up his bag and follows his uncle and his cousins. The
gang-plank leads out to an elevated platform, crowned
with a neat little building, from the cupola of which a
purple-and-white flag, shaped and colored somewhat
EVERY MAN IM'ST WEAR A RESPIRATOR.
like a pansy, is floating in the faint breeze. In a neat
little park surrounding the station an orderly crowd of
the moon-folk are waiting.
It is the brightest-colored company that Mark has
ever seen. The park fairly glitters and dances with
brilliant hues. The little carriages in which the gentry
are sitting, instead of being painted dead black, are gay
with crimson and purple and gold. The little ponies
themselves have coats as bright as the plumage of the
40 c~ Christmas 'Dinner with the caan in the CMoont
birds on the earth, and the costumes of the people are
all as gay as color can make them.
See! exclaims Clarence; "what do they mean ?
They are all waving flags, and they seem to be shout-
ing, but they do not make any noise."
"No noise that you can hear," replied Mr. How-
land. "The atmosphere is so rare that it does not
convey the sound to our ears. Perhaps when we draw
nearer we shall hear a little of it."
But what are they shouting for ? asks Arthur.
They are greeting us," replies his father. These
are Sir Marmaduke's people-his constituents perhaps
I ought to call them; and they have come at his sum-
mons to give us a welcome."
A handsome young officer now appears on the plat-
form, and touching his cap to the travelers, beckons
them to follow him. They all descend the platform and
go to the small square in front of the park, where the
carriages are waiting. Here Sir Marmaduke comes
forward to greet them, lifting his chapeau, and extend-
ing his hand in a very cordial fashion.
He is a pleasant-faced little man, with gray hair; he
is dressed, in a purple uniform with white facings, and
he carries at his side an elegant little sword. He puts
his fingers to- his ears and points with a smiling face
toward the multitude in the park (who are waving their
flags and their caps, and seem to be shouting still more
uproariously), as if to say:
"They are making so much noise that it is of no
use for me to try to talk."
eA Christmas 'Dinner with the (Man in the JMoon 41
The boys can hardly refrain from laughing at this
dumb show; but a faint murmur comes to their ears,
like the shouting of a multitude miles away, and they
realize that it is not really pantomime, though it looks
so very like it.
They are led by Sir Marmaduke to the chariot in
waiting. The body of this conveyance is scarlet, the
wheels are gilt, and the cushions are sky-blue; it is
drawn by sixteen ponies, four abreast, each team of
which is driven by a postilion. The chariot is about
as large as an ordinary barouche, with seats for four;
but it towers high above all the carriages of the moon-
A faint popping comes to their ears, which seems to
be a salute from a battery of electrical cannon in the
upper corner of the park; in the midst of the salute
the procession moves off. A band, dressed in scarlet
and gold, and playing on silver instruments, leads the
way; the tones resemble the notes of a small music-
box, smothered in a trunk. Sir Marmaduke's body-
guard of two hundred cavalry comes next; then Sir
Marmaduke himself in his carriage of state, drawn by
eight ponies; then the travelers in their chariot; then
the grandees of the moon in carriages, and then the
rest of the military and citizens on foot.
It is about a mile from the station to the palace of
Sir Marmaduke, and the travelers have a chance to
observe the scenery. The surface is quite uneven; the
hills are high and steep, and the valleys narrow; the'
trees are small and somewhat different in form from
42 A Christmas 'Dinner with the cfanv in the cVoon,
those on the earth; the grass is fine and soft, and multi-
tudes of the brightest pink and yellow flowers bloom in
the meadows. The houses, from all of which the pansy
flag is flying, are stone, and are nearly all of a sin-
gle story, built, Arthur guesses,
in view of earthquakes.
THE GRAND CAVALCADE IN THE METROPOLIS OF THE MOON.
Moonquakes, you mean," suggests Mark.
The very moderate laugh with which the other boys
greet this small witticism seems to produce consterna-
tion among the moon-folk. Sir Marmaduke claps his
hands to his ears, the cavalry ponies in front fall to
4 Christmas 'Dinner with the Man in the cMoon 43
jumping and prancing, and the whole procession is
struck with a sudden tremor.
"Careful, boys!" whispers Mr. Howland. "You
must remember that one of our ordinary tones sounds
like thunder to these people, and the rush of air from
our lungs, 'when we suddenly laugh or cry out, affects
this thin atmosphere somewhat as an explosion of nitro-
glycerine affects the atmosphere of the earth. A sudden
outcry in a loud tone might do great damage."
And now the head of the column halts upon a wide
avenue leading up to a fine palace; the cavalry is
drawn up in ranks on either side of the avenue; the
carriages pass between, halting at the steps only long
enough to allow Sir Marmaduke, and the travelers, and
the grandees to dismount and ascend the pavilion; the
troops march past with flying banners and music faintly
heard, and the guests are escorted to their rooms in the
palace, and are told to amuse themselves in any way
that pleases them until dinner shall be ready.
I have read," says Arthur, that there is no mois-
ture on the surface of the moon; but this vegetation
proves that there is. Besides, right there is a beautiful
fountain playing on the lawn before the palace, and
yonder is a river."
It is true," his father answers, that there are but
few signs of moisture on the side of the moon that is
nearest the earth; but we sailed around last night to
the other side,-the side that we never see from the
earth; and here the surface is much lower, and there is
moisture enough to promote vegetation. It is only this
side of the moon that is inhabited."
44 A Cbristmas 'Dinner with bth' cMan in the Mloon
It is not long before a herald comes to summon our
travelers to dinner. They pass through a long corridor
into the spacious hall of the palace, where the feast is
spread. Sir Marmaduke meets them at the door of the
hall, and escorts them to a dais at the side of the room,
SIR MARMADUKE MAKES A SPEECH.
upon which stands the table prepared for them. From
this elevated position the whole of the banqueting hall
is visible, and the gay costumes of the guests, with the
splendor of the table-service and the abundance of the
flowers, make it a brilliant spectacle.
Sir Marmaduke places Mr. Howland on his right,
,A Christmas 'Dinner with the VMaan in the 7Moon 45
and his prime minister on his left; the three boys occupy
the seats next to Mr. Howland.
The master of the feast holds in his hand a speaking-
trumpet, with which he can converse with his guest
upon the right; for it is only by the aid of this that he
can make himself heard. The waiters who come to
serve the earth-folks also have speaking-trumpets slung
around their necks; but they find little use for them, for
the feast proceeds with great formality and in excellent
One course after another is served. Mark has never
seen in his dreams anything so tempting as this bounti-
Presently the cloth is removed, and the Man in the
Moon rises to propose the health of the earth-folk. To
each of the guests a monstrous ear-trumpet is handed,
with a megaphone attached, and the boys, at a sign
from Mr. Howland, draw back from the table, bring
their chairs a little nearer to Sir Marmaduke, and listen
to what he is saying. His thin voice comes to them
as from afar, a little like the sound of the telephone
when the wires are not working very well; but, with
strict attention, they catch the words of his speech:
"My lords and gentlemen: We are honored in
having with us to-day one of the most distinguished
inhabitants of the earth. Allow me to present him,
and the young gentlemen who are with him, and
to bid him and them, in the name of you all, a
hearty welcome to the moon."
Here the whole company rise and give three
tremendous cheers, which sound to the boys about
46 e/ Christmas 'Dinner with the Van in the -Moou
as loud as the buzz of half a dozen house-flies on
"There could be no better day than this," Sir
Marmaduke goes on, "for the promotion of peace
and good-will between the inhabitants of this planet
and those of Mother Earth." (" Hear! Hear!" from
the multitude below.) It has been one of my dear-
est ambitions to secure more perfect communication
and more friendly relations between the moon and
the earth." ("Hear! Hear!" and cheers. "I need
not refer to the erroneous opinions which so long
,were held by our people, concerning the earth and
her inhabitants. You know that, until a recent period,
it was believed by most of our scientific men that
the people living on the earth were quadrupeds,-
that each was provided with four legs, two horns, and
a tail." (Sensation.) "The origin of this opinion is
known to you all. Many centuries ago, a creature
from the earth passed swiftly through our sky one
day about noon, and was seen to return in the
direction of the earth. It was supposed to be one
of the earth's inhabitants. It is now known that it
was one of their domestic animals. The event is
recorded in the annals of the earth, and is one of
the facts taught to the children of that planet at a
very tender age. It is referred to in one of their
treatises of useful science in the following manner:
"' Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.'
/q Christmas 'Dinner with the cMVan in the VMoon 47
"It was a cow, then, my lords and gentlemen, and
not one of the earth-folk, that appeared that day so sud-
denly in our sky. Our scientists were too hasty in
their inferences. They should not have based a theory
so broad upon a single fact. And inasmuch as there
have been those among us who were slow to relinquish
the old theory, and loath to believe that the people of the
earth are bipeds like ourselves, I am greatly pleased to
give you to-day an ocular demonstration of the new
Sir Marmaduke sits down amid great cheering.
Mr. Howland has risen, and is watching for the
applause to subside before beginning his response. The
boys have kept as sober faces as possible, but the speech
of the Man in the Moon has pretty nearly upset their
gravity. Mark is biting his lips to keep back the mer-
riment, when he suddenly turns around and perceives
the fat old prime minister, who has eaten too much
Christmas dinner, asleep in his chair through all this
enthusiasm, and nodding desperately in the direction of
a hot pudding that has been left by the waiters before
him on the table. Every nod brings his face a little
nearer to the smoking heap, and finally down goes his
nose plump into the pudding.
It is a little more than the boy can endure. How
much of it is laugh, and how much cough, and how
much scream, nobody can tell; but there is a tremen-
dous explosion from the mouth and nose of Mark-an
explosion that smashes crockery and upsets vases, and
sends Sir Marmaduke spinning out of his chair, and
scatters the guests as if a thunder-bolt had struck
48 /1 Christmas 'Dinner with the MIan in the IMoon
the palace. In a few moments .the hall is deserted by
all but the master of the feast and a few of his attend-
ants, with the guests from the earth, who are looking
on in dismay at the havoc which has been made by
Mark's unlucky outburst.
The good Sir Marmaduke quickly comes forward to
"Really," he says, "you must not be distressed
about this. No serious harm has been done. The boy
was not to blame. I, too, caught a glimpse of the old
gentleman, making the last desperate nod, and I
could n't help bursting with laughter."
But the people," says Mr. Howland. I am very
sorry that we should have had the misfortune to frighten
them so badly."
"You need have no anxiety on that score," replies
Sir Marmaduke. "They did'not connect the noise they
heard with you in any way. They all thought it was a
moonquake, and they have hurried home to see whether
their houses have sustained any injury."
While they have been talking, they have been pass-
ing through the hall toward the pavilion. The chariot
of the guests has just appeared in front of the palace.
"Can it be possible?" exclaims Mr. Howland.
" Our time of departure has come. Good-bye, Sir
Marmaduke. You have done us much honor, and
given us great pleasure."
"Good-bye," returns the gentle host. "I shall see
you here again, I am sure. And I want the boys to
come without fail. The next time, we will take a little
trip to the mountains, and see some of the craters of
e/ Christmas 'Dinner with the IMan in the (MIoon 49
the extinct volcanoes, and camp out a few days where
the game and the fish are plenty. Good-bye. Bon
voyage / "
The parting guests, thus heartily speeded, mount
their carriage, are whirled to the station, enter again the
saloon of "The Meteor," are lifted upon the great elec-
tric tide then just ebbing, and will soon, no doubt, be
safely landed at the Lunenburg terminus of the Great
When Uncle Jack's narration closes there is silence
in the library for half a minute.
Uncle Jack! finally ejaculates Sue, with a good
deal of emphasis on "Jack," and with a falling inflec-
Let us look into that machine," pleads Joe.
"Oh, that machine," says Uncle Jack, in a very cool
way, "is my spectroscope. I did not see in that the
things I have been telling you."
"What did you see them in ? urges Joe.
Humbug! shouts the knowing Fred. He made
it all up out of his own head. There! He 's got the
blank-book in his hand, now, that he writes his stories
in. I '11 bet he's read every word of it out of that book
while he has been sitting there with his back to us, pre-
tending to look into that old spectroscope."
"Alas! my gentle babes," complains the solemn
uncle, slipping the blank-book into his desk. I grieve
that you should have so little confidence in me. But
you must remember that in these days of Edison and
Jules Verne, nothing is incredible."
TOM NOBLE'S CHRISTMAS
W HAT do you suppose Tom Noble had in his
stocking on Christmas morning?
"A new jack-knife ?"
Pocket-book? Pencil case? Game of authors?
Dominoes? Jack-straws? Smashed-up locomotive?
Bag of candy?"
Some kind of a book then ?"
No; no book of any kind.
Pair of clappers then ? 0, drum ?"
O dear, no: I should hope not. Besides, I don't
see how you could get a drum into a stocking. I have
sometimes thought that I might, and could, and would
put my stocking and my boot, too, into a drum, but I
Tom Noble's Christmas
never heard of anybody's putting a drum into a
"Well- then- perhaps it was a-a-a-jumping-
N-n-o, it was n't exactly that, but you 've come
pretty near it this time; it was something that could
0, acrobats; dancing darkey !"
No. But I don't believe you '11 ever guess. I '11
give you a hint or two, and then perhaps you will
The thing that was in Tom's stocking that morning
was put in by Tom himself. It is n't very common, I
know, for boys to fill their own stockings, and Tom had
not always done it in exactly this way; but there was a
good reason why nobody but him should do it this time,
and I presume if you had been in his place you would
have done just as he did.
The thing that was in Tom's stocking was worth a
"Worth a dollar?"
More than that.
More than that.
Hundred dollars! "
0 yes, much more than that: if you had been in
Tom's place you would not have'sold it, I 'm sure, for
many hundreds of dollars.
Was n't he a lucky boy, though ?"
Yes, he was: not however in just the way you think.
Tom Noble's Christmas
But you have n't guessed yet what it was that Tom had
in his stocking. Give it up? Well then I'll tell you.
It was his foot. He put it in when he jumped out
of bed. Now you know why it was like a jumping-
jack, and why Tom put it into his stocking himself, and
why he would n't have sold it for a good deal of money.
But you thought it was a present. Yes, but Tom
did n't expect any present in his stocking that morning.
I suppose he would have been as glad of one as you or
I, but there was no one to make him a present on this
Christmas day. He thought it all over before he went
to sleep on Christmas eve. The year before there were
presents enough. They were living then in the old
home in the city-Father and Mother and little Sue and
baby Dick; and they had a Christmas tree in the parlor,
and on it was a new dressing-gown for father, and a
new chain and locket with father's picture in it for
mother, and a doll's house for little Sue, and a jack-in-
the-box for Dick, and many other things too numerous
to mention; not the. least among which was a splendid
new sled, latest tooth-pick pattern, painted blue, with
its name, Streak," in gilt letters on the top; a genuine
blue streak it proved, too, Tom said, Give it a good
day and a good track."
Tom remembered that day very well. He thought
it all over-how bright his father's eyes were, and what
an eager look there was on his face, as he watched the
children at their play, and how hard he seemed to be
trying to make the day a merry one for all, and still
how it sometimes seemed as though he would cry, even
Tom Noble's Christmas
while he was laughing. Tom did not know, then, what
this all meant, nor why his mother was so sad; but
when, two months after, his father died, he understood
that they were full of sorrow because they knew that it
would be the last Christmas they ever would spend on
'Tom loved his father dearly; and when one day
they called him in, and he sat down by the bedside, and
took the thin cold hand in his, and heard the slowly
whispered words: "I 'm going away, my boy. Be
good to your mother. Take care of little Sue and Dick.
I leave them with you! Always tell the truth. Don't
do a mean thing. Father trusts you. Jesus will help
you "-when Tom heard these words, slowly and pain-
fully spoken, and went out of the room knowing that
he never again should see his father alive, it seemed to
him that his heart would break. He thought he should
never be happy again like other boys. But young
hearts are not often crushed by sorrow, and Tom soon
saw that there was need that he should be braver and
more cheerful than he had ever been before.
In the spring their house in the city was sold, and
Tom's mother, with the children, moved into the farm-
house where his father had lived when he was a boy.
It was an old-fashioned house with a sloping roof in the
rear that reached almost to the ground, and there were
five large elms in the yard with a swing hanging from
the branches of one of them, and there was a nice gar-
den with currant bushes and asparagus beds and pie-
plant in great abundance, and there was an orchard with
Tom Noble's Christmas
twenty or thirty old apple trees, and a pasture with
woods in the rear and a brook running through it with a
good many dace and minnows in it, and now and then
a trout. There could not have been a better home for a
twelve-year-old boy, and Tom had enjoyed it, though
he had been obliged to work pretty hard, for his mother
was not rich. The care of the garden and of old Betsey
the cow, and of the pigs and the hens fell pretty much
on Tom, and in looking after these things his mornings
and evenings and holidays and vacations had been fully
occupied. I suppose he had sometimes been idle when
he ought to have been at work, and sometimes careless
and roguish; but I am bound to say that Tom had tried
hard to act like a man. All the neighbors said, at any
rate, that that widow Noble's boy Tom was just the
manliest little chap that ever was.
Handles a hoe," said Farmer Brown, as if he had
been born with a hoe in his hand."
"Ye oughter see his inyun beds," said Farmer
Green. "There ain't a weed in 'em anywhere big
enough for a grasshopper to roost on. Pusley don't
stand no show at all in his garden."
"And that ain't the best don't said Farmer White.
" Blamed if he ain't the most fatherliest little fellow to
them younger children that I ever see. And he 's jest
as tender and good to his mother as a boy could be.
'T ain't often you see a woman treated by anything of
mankind as he treats her. Seems jest like as if he was
a courtin' on her; he 's so kind and thoughtful like."
It did the neighbors good to praise Tom, I am sure.
Tom Noble's Christmas
And if they did not say these things to his face, he knew
that they thought well of him, and their good opinion
helped him mightily to be a better boy.
I have told you all these things about Tom, that
you may understand a little how he felt that Christmas
eve, as he lay there thinking about the last Christmas
day, and of all that had happened since. He felt sure
there would be no presents; for his mother was going
to Brookville, the week before, but she had been taken
suddenly ill and had neither been able to purchase nor
prepare anything for Christmas. Now she was better;
grandmother had come to take care of her, and all was
going on well. But though Tom was very thankful
for this, he could n't help thinking how different things
were the year before; and because he was a real boy
and not one of Mr. Hiram Hydraulic's boys, I guess
(though I don't know, because I was not there to see),
that he cried about it a little before he went to sleep.
The next morning all this sorrow was bravely put
away. Tom was up betimes, and it was plain to begin
with that if the day failed to be a merry one, it would
not be for the want of Tom's wishing it to be merry
early and often.
Merry Christmas, Sue! Merry Christmas, Dick "
he shouted, and the little folks sat up and rubbed their
"Where 's Mawy Quismas ? said Baby Dick, "I
want to see her."
Dick's ideas of the children's holiday were vague.
He had heard something about it and his notion was
Tom Noble's Christmas
that Christmas was a young lady, perhaps a daughter
of Santa Claus, of whom he had also heard; that her
pockets were full of good things for children, and that
her first name was Mary. "Where's Mawy Quismas ?"
0, you 're a knowing youngster," laughed Tom,
as he rolled up the cherub in the blanket and tossed him
over his shoulder; "Christmas is n't a woman, Dick,
it's a day. 'T is n't Mary Christmas, it's Merry Christ-
mas." Dick still looked dubious.
"Well," said Susie, "there was a Mary that had
something to do with it; perhaps he 's thinking about
the story in the Testament. But say, Tom, is this
Christmas day, truly?"
"You 're right, it is," said Tom, "the rale ginooine
Christmas day. But look here, ducky, we 're not going
to have any presents to-day; because, you know,
mamma has been sick, and she has n't been able to get
anything ready for Christmas, or even to think about it.
Now don't you say a single word about presents: that
would make her feel badly, you know. Let's see if we
can't have a jolly old Christmas all on our own hook.
That '11 do her lots of good. Come on, let 's go down
and wish her Merry Christmas! Softly! we won't
wake her if she is asleep."
They knocked gently at mother's door.
"Come in," said mother.
Merry Christmas," chanted the trio in unison.
Mother was sitting up in bed with her breakfast
shawl round her shoulders. She was much better, but
Tom Noble's Christmas
her face wore a troubled look, that quickly passed away
when the happy little group stood by the side of her bed.
"Where's Mawy Quismas?" persisted Dick. The
irrepressible youngster was determined to spoil Tom's
0 mother he laughed, this baby thinks Christ-
mas is a girl, and her name is Mary."
"Well, children,' dear," Mrs. Noble began, "I 'm
Now, mother, dear," said Tom, gently putting his
arm round her neck and stopping her mouth with a
kiss, "don't you say another word. I 'm not sorry
a bit. I was, a little, but I 've got all over it. Are
No," said Sue, bravely.
"Are you, Dick ?"
No, I is n't sawy," crowed the little cherub, flap-
ping the wings of his nightgown, "but I 's hungwy
vough. I wants my bextuf."
"Bless his heart," said grandma, "his breakfast he
shall have right away."
Now just let me fix this thing," cried Tom. "After
breakfast I 'm going up to the woods to cut a nice little
Christmas tree and get it ready for evening. Christmas
evening is just as good a time for a Christmas tree as
Christmas eve. Then we '11 all go out and have some
jolly fun sliding down the little hill behind the house.
After dinner I '11 pop a good lot of corn, and Sue and
Dick can string that while I go up to Holmes's Hill, if
mother says I may, and have an hour or two of royal
Tom Noble's Christmas
,coasting. All the fellows are to be there this afternoon.
Then after supper, I '11 build a roaring fire in the big
sitting-room fire-place, and we 'll bring in our Christ-
mas tree, and festoon it with pop-corn, and hang some
of those bright balls on it that we had last year, you
know, mother, with some apples and things, and I know
we can make it look as pretty as a picture. Then we'll
crack a lot of walnuts and butternuts, and make some
molasses taffy; and we '11 play some games, and sing
' We Three Kings of Orient,' and I should n't wonder
if we would all feel as happy as kings."
"Very good, Tom," said Mrs. Noble; "your pro-
gramme is a capital one. My children have been so
good, all summer, and especially my dear boy, that I
felt very sorry because I was not able to prepare for
their Christmas; but I know that if each one tries to
make the rest happy, we shall all have a merry Christ-
mas. I '11 ask the doctor when he comes, and perhaps
he '11 let you and grandma help me into the big rocking-
chair, and draw me out into the sitting-room for a little
while this evening."
Do it, mother! shouted Tom. Good for you!
Won't that be staving to have you round again."
With his heart full of his plan to make the most of
his Christmas, Tom put on his cap and mittens and
sallied forth into the frosty air to do his chores before
breakfast. The sun was just looking over the top of
Holmes's Hill, and the meadows beneath, white with
snow that rain and frost had enameled with a glittering
crust, shone like a crystal sea. Tom thought there was
Tom Noble's Christmas
glory on the earth, this Christmas morning, almost as
bright as the angels saw in the sky. No doubt it was
partly because his heart was so full of good will that
the world looked so glorious.
Merry Christmas, old Betsey! he shouted, as he
mixed an extra allowance of meal for her breakfast.
M-m-m-m! replied the cow.
I don't know exactly what she meant by that; but I
know that the dumb creatures would be very thankful
on Christmas'day if they knew enough; for it is the
Lord Christ who had a manger for his cradle, and on
whom the large-eyed cattle looked wonderingly before
ever the shepherds worshiped Him, who has taught his
disciples to be merciful and kind to "man, and bird,
Merry Christmas, Grunter and Greaser shouted
Tom again, as he looked over the side of the pig-pen,
with a basket of corn in his hand. Greaser and Grunter
were of Dick's mind; they wanted their breakfast, and
no nonsense; and they put their forefeet up on the side
of the pen, and said so in the plainest Hog Latin. Tom
gave it to them, and by this time the Prince or Pasha,
or Highcockolorum, or whatever you call him, of the
hen-house, was on hand with his numerous family.
Merry Christmas to you, old Rooster! said Tom;
whereupon that worthy stood a moment on one leg,
cocked his head first on one side and then on the other,
and then flew up to the top of the pig-pen, flapped his
wings, and answered-
But you know what he said much better than I can
Tom Noble's Christmas
tell you. It sounded to Tom a little like: "Ditto to
you! At any rate the funny way the old rooster said
it made Tom laugh heartily, and he went into breakfast
in the best of humor.
After breakfast, the day's programme was carried
out just as Tom had arranged it. Taking his hatchet
and a rope, he loaded the little children on his sled and
went to the woods for the Christmas tree. The one he
picked out was a trim little spruce about six feet in
height; and after he had chopped it down, he fastened
it to his sled with the rope he had brought, and started
for the house. From the woods to the garden gate
,was one long hill, and Tom had no need to draw the
sled home; with Dick before and Sue behind, his sled
skimmed swiftly over the crust, and little Dick screamed
with delight to see the Christmas tree come sweeping
after. Tom said it all looked like a green comet with
After the tree was brought into the wood-shed Tom
sawed off the trunk, nailed on a block for a standard,
and, after whipping off the snow, set it aside for the
evening. All this work the little folks watched with
eager eye. Then the corn was popped, and then came
the fun that Sue and Dick had been waiting for all the
morning-the coasting on the crust of the little hill be-
hind the house. Jolly day it was for coasting, too. The
crust was as solid as a floor and as smooth as ice; any-
thing would go, whether it had runners or not. Tom
and Sue put the sled through all its paces. They rode
front-face, side-saddle, filibuster (or some such word);
Tom Noble's Christmas
they rode backwards, they got barrel staves and put a
board across them, and went down on them famously;
they tied streamers to sticks and waved them as they
went, and shouted and screamed till they were tired.
Little Dick was not neglected. He rode till he was
weary, and then went afoot. He fell down any number
of times, but it did n't hurt him any; once he rolled half
way down the hill, but he picked himself up at the bot-
tom and only wanted to know what made the "fensh
go wound." After all this fun the children were ready
for their good Christmas dinner that grandmother had
prepared for them, and the little ones were content to
stay in the house while Tom went over to Holmes's
Hill for his afternoon's sport with the boys.
Just above Mr. Holmes's house the road to Brook-
ville turned to the left, going round the corner of his
yard, while the direct road was the road to Millbury.
The boys with single sleds started on the Millbury road,
only a little above the house, and went to the bottom of
the hill, about a quarter of a mile below; but Bill Har-
rison and his crew of eight large boys, with their double-
ripper, went round the corner and up the Brookville
road more than half a mile above the house. The road
was smooth and icy, and the ripper came down like the
wind. Bill said that they had made the three-quarters
of a mile in a little less than a minute and a half. The
small boys all watched out for this dangerous craft, and
never started when it was due at the corner.
Tom had made the short trip two or three times on
his good Blue Streak," that would n't take the dust of
Tom Noble's Christmas
any small sled, and was waiting with half a dozen other
boys at the top of the hill on the straight road, for the
ripper to come down the other road. The warning
cry of the crew had been heard, and they would be at
the corner within a minute. Nearer and nearer came
the cry: Clear the track! Clear the track! Clear the
track!" The ripper was within a quarter of a mile
when suddenly little Harry Holmes, a curly-headed
four year old, who was playing in his father's yard, slid
through the front gate down upon the road, and rolled
from his sled, which went on and left him sitting there
composedly, right in the track of the terrible ripper,
brushing the snow from his sleeve. The crew could
not see him, and could not avoid him; he was just
around the corner from them. Every boy in Tom's
group saw him, though; and there was a sudden outcry
of alarm, but nobody stirred save Tom. Quick as
lightning he flung the good Blue Streak down upon
the road, and himself upon it, steering straight for the
Clear the track! yelled the ripper's crew. It was
frightfully near. Now Tom was at the corner. He
glanced up the road; there they were, right upon him,
already bending in to keep the craft upright as they
went round the turn But he was ahead One moment
more, and deftly steering to the left of the child, he
passed his right arm round him, and giving his left
foot a powerful dig into the snow, swept the little fellow
out of the track and over a little bank by the roadside.
Tom's sled tipped over and he and the child rolled down
Tom Noble's Christmas
the bank together, but neither was hurt. The crew of
the ripper turned pale with fright, as they saw the
sudden danger of the child, and his marvelous escape;
the stern of the "Blue Streak" was grazed by the
prow of their craft as it went round the turn. Good
boy! Toml" "Bully for you!" they shouted as they
swept on down the hill.
But if the crew of the ripper were thankful, what do
you suppose were the feelings of little Harry's father,
who was just coming out of the door as Tom plucked
his child out of the jaws of death. He had heard the
cry of the ripper crew, and looking out, had seen little
Harry sitting there; then rushing out of the door had
also seen the rescue. You brave boy he said with
swelling heart, as Tom put the child into his arms.
"You saved his life! God bless you! Come in!"
But Mrs. Holmes had fallen fainting in the doorway,
overcome by the sudden peril of her child, and Tom
simply said, "Thank you, sir! not unless I can be of
some use. I must go home after this trip." And he
climbed back to the starting place, where the other boys
were still standing breathless.
"Three cheers for Tom Noble!" cried Charley
Green,- and the boys gave him three, and a tiger.
"There, fellows, that will do," laughed Tom. "I 'm
not running for office, and it is not worth while to make
yourselves hoarse about so small a matter."
"But it is n't a small matter," said George
Lincoln. "Look here, old fellow! You know I
called you a coward two weeks ago, because you
Tom Noble's Christmas
would n't go skating on Brown's pond when the
ice was thin"-
"And you know," broke in Will Stebbins, "that I said
that you was mamma's boy, and that I would n't be tied
up to any woman's apron strings as you were to hers."
"Well," said Tom, "what of it? I did n't lay up
anything against you on that account."
No matter if you did n't," said George, I take it
all back. That 's the best I can do. And if anybody
calls Tom Noble a coward after this-why,-it won't
be true, that 's all."
"And if anybody calls him mamma's boy in my
hearing," said Will, I shall only say that I wish my
mamma had as plucky a boy, that's all! "
"All right, fellows," said Tom. "You 're all very
generous. I 'm glad of your good will, and hope to
merit the continuance of the same, as the papers say.
But now I must go home."
And mounting again his good sled, Tom was soon
at the foot of the hill, and speedily reached his home.
I must not take long to tell you of what happened
that evening. After supper, according to programme,
mother came out into the sitting-room; the Christmas
tree was brought in and dressed, and it was just as
pretty a tree as merry children ever danced around; the
nuts were cracked, the games were played, and just as
the first verse of "We Three Kings" was finished,
there was a sound of sleigh bells outside, and somebody
stopped at the gate.
Mr. Holmes and Mrs. Holmes, and Harry," said
Tom, as he looked out into the moonlight.
Tom Noble's Christmas
"What can have sent them over here this even-
ing?" queried Mrs. Noble.
Tom blushed, but said nothing. When he let
them into the sitting-room his mother noticed that
the lady caught hold of him, and kissed him, look-
ing very much as if she were going to cry. All
this was a riddle to Mrs. Noble, but she remem-
bered in a moment that Mrs. Holmes's boy Phil
had died only two years before, and she thought
that Tom had probably brought him freshly to her
After a few words Mr. Holmes said to Mrs.
Noble: "I suppose you know, madam, how much
we owe to your son?"
"No," said Tom's mother, with a puzzled look.
"What do you mean?"
"So he has n't told you," said Mr. Holmes.
"No, on the whole, I did n't suppose that he would.
It would n't be like him." And then Mr. Holmes
went over by the side of Mrs. Noble and told her
all about it, while Tom and the other children took
little Harry aside and regaled him with walnut meats
and pop-corn. When he happened to glance over
toward his mother he noticed that her cheeks were
flushed and her eyes moistened at hearing Mr.
Holmes's story. Pretty soon the gentleman came
over to him, and taking from his pocket a good-
sized package said: "Tom, I have brought with me
something that I hope you will accept as a slight
token of my gratitude to you. They belonged to my
dead boy, and I have n't cared to part with them; but
Tom Noble's Christmas
if it had n't been for you, our only other boy might
not have been ours to-night!"
So saying he put the package into Tom's hands,
and wishing all a merry Christmas, the visitors took
"What is it, Tom?" cried Sue, before they were
out of the gate.
Tom opened the .package and both of his eyes
very wide at the same moment. It was a splendid
pair of silver-mounted club skates, beautiful as a
picture and just Tom's size.
"And here," said-his mother, "is a box of build-
ing blocks for Dick, and a box of kindergarten gifts
-weaving-for Sue, that Mrs. Holmes has brought;
so that all my children will have something after all
to remember this Christmas by.
The presents were hung on the tree, just to see
how they would look, you know, and then they all
danced round it once more, and then they sang the
other verses of "We Three Kings," and then the
little folks went to bed.
I 'm glad, Tom," said his mother when grandma
had gone out with the little children. It was all she
I 'm glad that you 're glad, mother, dear," said
Tom, tenderly, as he crept up to her side and laid
his head in her lap.
"Tom," after a little silence.
"Has this been a happy Christmas?"
Tom Noble's Christmas
It would have been, would n't it, if these gifts
had n't come to-night?"
"0, yes, indeed."
"It would have been, would n't it, even if you
had n't had the chance to do that-what you did
this afternoon? I m glad that you were able to do
it; but then, that was not the reason of all your
happiness to-day, was it?"
"What was it then?"
"Well," said Tom slowly, "I suppose it was
because I tried a little to help other folks to have
a good time."
"That was it, my boy. You forgot yourself in
trying to make others happy. And he who does
that finds that Christmas lasts all the year round;
for good will and peace are always in his heart, and
in blessing others he himself is richly blest. Good-
night, my darling."
And wiping away the thankful and happy tears
that fell from his mother's eyes upon his face, Tom
Noble went to bed.
THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A
" EEPS coming right down, don't it, Bill?"
Bill could not deny it, and did not wish to admit
it; therefore, he said nothing.
What was coming down was the snow. It had
been falling, thicker and faster, since a little after
daylight, and now it was nearly dark. Stumps of
trees and gate-posts were capped with great white
masses of it; here and there a path, cleared up to
the back door of a farm-house, showed on either
hand a high bank of it fluted with broom or shovel.
The boy, whose observation about its coming
down I' have just recorded, was Master Winfield
Scott Burnham. He was a slender boy, with a
pale face, dark eyes and brown hair, and he sat
pressing his face against the pane of a car window,
looking with rather a rueful countenance upon the
fast-falling snow. The young gentleman sitting
opposite to him, whom he made bold to address
The Strange cldventures of a Wood-sled
as Bill, was his big brother, a junior in college,
who had long been Win's hero; and he was worthy
to be the hero of any small boy, for he was not
only strong and swift and expert in all kinds of
"POUR VOICES SHOUTED, MERRY CHRISTMAS! '
muscular sports, but he was too much of a man
ever to treat small boys, even though they might
be his own brothers, roughly or contemptuously.
Just across the aisle, on the other side of the
car, sat Win's eldest sister, Grace, who was a soph-
omore at "Smith" College; and fronting her on the
70 The Strange adventures s of a Wood-sled
reversed seat was Win's younger brother, Philip
The reason why these Burnhams happened to be
traveling together was this: The Christmas vacation
had come, and William and Grace were on their
way to their home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The
two small boys, whose school at home had closed a
week earlier than the colleges, had been visiting
their cousins in Hartford for a few days; and it
was arranged that William should come over from
Amherst and join Grace at Northampton, and that
the two should wait at Springfield for the little boys,
who were to be put on the northern train at Hart-
ford by their uncle. But the trains on all the roads
had been greatly delayed by the snow, and it was
four o'clock before the noon express, with the Burn-
hams on board, left Springfield for the West. The
darkness was closing in, and the wind was rising,
and William had already expressed some fear of a
snow-blockade upon the mountain. This remark had
made Win rather sober, and he had been watching the
snow and listening to the wind with an anxious face.
"How long shall we be going to Pittsfield?" he
asked his brother.
"There's no telling," answered Will. We ought
to get there in two hours, but at this rate it will be four
at the shortest."
That will make it eight o'clock," sighed Win.
" I 'm afraid the Christmas tree will all be unloaded
before that time."
The Strange cAdventures of a Wood-sled
"Yes, my boy; I 'm sorry, but you might as well
make up your mind to that."
Win started across the car. This disappointment
was too big for one. He must share it with Phil.
Hold on, General!" said William in a low tone.
"What 's the good of telling him ? Let him be easy in
his mind as long as he can."
Win sat down in silence. Phil was telling his sister
great stories of the Hartford visit, and his gleeful tones
resounded through the car. Grace was laughing at his
big talk, and they seemed to be making a merry time
of it. But the train had just stopped at Westfield, and
there was difficulty in starting. The wind howled
ominously, and great gusts of snow came flying down
from the roof of the passenger house against the win-
dows of the car. Presently, the two engines that were
drawing the train backed up a little to get a good start,
and then plunged into the snow.
"Ch- h! Ch-h! ch-ch! Ch-h-h-h-h!"
The wheels were slipping upon the track, and the
train suddenly came to a halt.
Back again they went, a little further, for another
start; and this time the two engines, like "two hearts
that beat as one," cleared the course, and the train went
slowly on up the grade. Grace and Phil had stopped
talking, and they now came across and joined their
"Are n't you afraid there may be trouble on the
mountain, Will?" asked Grace.
Should n't wonder," said that gentleman, shortly.
The Strange Adventures of a Wood-sled
, But, Will, what in the world should we do if we
should happen to be blockaded?"
"Sit still and wait till we were shoveled out, I
suppose. You see, we could n't go on afoot very
"Going to be snowed up! That's tip-top! cried
Phil. The boy's love of adventure had crowded out all
thoughts of the festival to which they were hastening.
I read in the paper about a train that was snowed up
three or four days on the Pacific road, and the passen-
gers had jolly times; the station was n't very far off, and
they got enough to eat and drink, and they had all sorts
of shows on the train."
But I 'd rather see the show at the Christmas tree
to-night," said Win, "than any show we '11 see on this
old train. Would n't you Bill ?"
Perhaps so," answered Bill. It was evident that
he had reasons of his own for not wishing to be absent
from the festival.
Meantime, the train was ploughing along. Now
and then it came to a halt in a cut which the snow had
filled, but a small party of shovelers that had come on
board at Westfield usually succeeded, after a short
delay, in clearing the track. Still the progress was very
slow. A full hour and a half was consumed between
Springfield and Russell, and it was almost seven o'clock
when the train stopped at Chester.
The boys were pretty hungry by this time, and the
prospect of spending the night in a snow-bank was
much less attractive, even to Phil, than it had been two
The Strange Aldventures of a Wood-sled 73
hours before. At Chester, whe'e there was a long halt,
the passengers-of whom there were not many-nearly
all got out and refreshed themselves. A couple of sand-
wiches, a piece of custard pie, a big, round doughnut,
and a glass of good milk, considerably increased Phil's
courage and greatly comforted Win, so that they
returned to the car ready to encounter with equal mind
the perils of the night.
The snow had ceased to fall, but the wind was still
blowing. Two or three more shovelers came on board,
and, thus reinforced, the train pushed on. But it was
slow work: the grade was getting heavier and the drifts
were deeper every mile. But Middlefield was passed
and Becket was left behind, and at nine o'clock the train
was slowly toiling up toward the summit at Washing-
ton, when, suddenly, it came to a halt, and a long blast
was blown by the whistles of both engines. Shortly, a
brakeman came through the train, and, taking one of
the red lanterns from the rear of the last car, hurried
down the track with it.
"Where is he going with that lantern ? asked Phil.
"He is going back a little way," said Will. The
lantern is a signal to keep other trains from running into
us. That means that we are to stay here for some time.
I '11 go out and see what's up."
Presently he returned with a sober face, and looking
Well, what is it?" they all asked.
0, nothing; there's a freight train in the cut just
ahead of us with two of its cars off the track, and the
74 The Strange All'vllctures of a Wood-sled
cut's about half full of snow. If our Christmas goose
is n't cooked already, there 'll be plenty of time to have
it cooked before we get out of this."
Is it that deep cut just below the Washington sta-
tion ?" asked Grace.
"The same," answered Will; and it 's as likely a
place to spend Christmas in as you could find anywhere
in Western Massachusetts."
Can't they dig out the snow ? cried Win.
"Oh, yes," said the big brother, "but it 's not an
easy thing to do; it 's got to be done with shovels, and
it will take a long time.'
How long?" asked Grace, ruefully.
Nobody knows. But we shall be obliged to wait for
more shovelers and wreckers to come up from Spring-
field, and I should n't wonder at all if we stayed here
"Can't you telegraph to father ?"
I 'm sorry to say I can not. I asked about that,
but the station man says the lines are down. No;
there 's nothing to do but bunk down for the night as
well as we can, and wait till deliverance comes. We 're
in a regular fix and no mistake, and we've just got to
make the best of it," replied Will.
Just then the rear door of the car opened and a fig-
ure appeared that had not been seen hitherto upon the
train. It was that of a stalwart man, perhaps fifty-five
years old, with long white hair and beard, ruddy cheeks,
and bright gray eyes. He wore a gray fur cap and a
long gray overcoat, and looked enough like- Some-
* The Strange Adlventures of a Wood-sled
body that we are all thinking of about Christmas time
to have been that Somebody's twin brother.
Good evening friends!" he said, in a very jolly
tone, as he shut the car-door behind him. Pleased to
receive a call from so many on ye. Merry Christmas to
ye all! 'T ain't often that I kin welcome such a big
Christmas party as this to my place! "
The good-nature of the farmer was irresistible. The
passengers all laughed.
I believe you," said a traveling salesman in a seal-
skin cap; and the sooner you bid us good riddance the
better we shall like it."
"And you need n't mind about wishing us many
happy returns either," said a black-whiskered man in a
plaid ulster; "if we ever get away from here, you
won't see us again soon !"
"What place is this ?" inquired a gray-haired lady,
who sat just in front of the Burnhams.
"Washin'ton 's what they call it," said the jolly
farmer. Pop'lar name enough; but the place don't
seem to be over popular jest now with some on ye."
And he laughed a big jolly laugh.
Is it, like our capital, a 'city of magnificent dis-
tances'?" inquired the man in the ulster.
I reckon it is. It's -consid'able of a distance from
everywhere else on airth. But it 's nigher to heaven 'n
any other place hereabouts."
What is raised on this hill ?" inquired the travel-
Wind, mostly. Is that article in your line ?"
76 The Strange Adventures of a Wood-sled
The laugh was on the salesman, but he enjoyed it
as well as any of them. A bit of a girl about three years
old, tugging a flaxen-haired doll under one arm, here
came sidling down the aisle of the car.
Ith oo Thanty Kauth ?" she said, lifting her great,
solemn black eyes to the farmer's face. The laugh was
on him now; and he joined in it uproariously.
Not jest exackly, my little gal," he said, as he lifted
her up in his arms; but you 've come purty nigh it.
Sandy Ross is what they call me."
Has oo dot a thleigh and a waindeer? persisted
the little maiden.
No; but I 've got a first-rate wood-sled,-pair
o' bobs, with a wood rack on't,-'n' ez slick a span o
Canadian ponies ez ever you see!"
The farmer stroked the dark hair of the little girl
with his great hard hand, and she snuggled down on
his shoulder as if he had been her grandfather.
The Burnhams had been joining in the merriment,
though they had taken no part in the conversation. But
when the little girl climbed down from the arms of
Sandy Ross, Will arose and beckoned him to a vacant
"How far from here do you live, Mr. Ross ?"
"Right up the bank thar. That's my house, with
a light in the winder."
It was a comfortable-looking white farm-house, with
a sloping roof in the rear and a big chimney in the
"Now, Mr. Ross, I live in Pittsfield, and I want
mightily to get there before noon to-morrow. I don't
The Strange i/dventures of a Wood-sled
believe this train will get there before to-morrow night.
Could you take my sister and those two little chaps and
me, and carry us all home early to-morrow morning on
your wood-sled, providing it is n't too cold to undertake
Le' 's see. Well, yes; I calc'late I could. I was
a-thinkin' 'bout goin' over to Pittsfield t'morrer with a
little jag o' wood, 'n' I reckon live critters like you won't
be no more trouble, ho! ho! The snow ain't no gret
depth; 't ain't nigh's deep on t'other side o' the moun-
tain ez 't is on this side. There '11 be drifts now 'n'
then, but the fences is down, so that we kin turn inter
the fields 'n' go round 'em."
How long will it take you to drive over? "
Le' 's see. 'T ain't over fifteen or sixteen mile. I
reckon I can make it in three to four hours."
Well, sir, if you 'll get us over there safely before
noon, I '11 give you five dollars."
"All right; that 's enough; tew much, I guess.
But see here, my friend; jest bring the young lady 'n'
the little chaps up to my house 'n' spend the night there,
all on ye. Then we can hev an airly breakfast, 'n' start
fair when we get good 'n' ready."
In less than five minutes the Burnhams, with bags
and bundles, were following Sandy Ross to the door of
This was the last that our travelers saw of their
fellow-passengers on the Western Express. Late the
next afternoon the train rolled into Pittsfield station, but
the Burnhams were busy elsewhere about that time.
It was but a few steps from the train to Sandy
78 The Strange /Adventures of a Wood-sled
Ross's house. William carried his sister through the
deepest snow, and the boys trudged along with the
bundles, highly pleased with the prospect of an adven-
ture in a farm-house. Good Mrs. Ross was as blithe
and hearty as her husband, and she soon made the
young folks feel quite at home.
To Miss Grace "the spar' room," as Mrs. Ross
called it, was assigned, while Will and the two boys
found a sleeping place in the attic. The dim tallow-
candle that lighted them to bed disclosed all sorts of
curious things. In one corner, facing.each other, were
two old, tall clocks that had long ceased ticking, and
now stood with folded hands and silent pendulums, rest-
ing from their labors. An old chest of drawers, that
would have been a prize for hunters of the antique, was
near the clocks; braids of yellow seed-corn hung from
the rafters, and at one end of the great room stood the
hand-loom on which the mother of Mrs. Ross had been
wont to weave cloth for the garments of her household.
It was an heir-loom, in the literal sense. The boys
thought that this garret would have been a grand place
to ransack; but they were too well-bred to go prying
about, and contented themselves with admiring what
was before their eyes. It was not long before they were
sound asleep in their snug nest of feathers; and when
they waked the next morning breakfast was ready, and
Farmer Ross and brother Will had made all the prepa-
rations for the journey. To the excellent farmer's break-
fast of juicy ham and eggs, genuine country sausages,
and delicious buckwheat cakes with maple syrup, they
all did full justice.
The Strange Adventures of a Wood-sled
It does me good to see boys eat," said the kind
farmer's wife; they do enjoy it so" ; and tears were in
her eyes as she thought of the hungry boys that used
to sit around this table. Farmer Ross and his wife
were alone in the world. Two of their sons were sleep-
ing in unmarked graves at Chancellorsville; the other
had died when he was a baby. But they were not self-
ish people; they had learned to bear sorrow, and
therefore their sorrow had not made them morose
and miserable; it had only made them more kind
Breakfast over, the wood-sled came round to the
door, and Mr. Ross looked in a moment to say a last
word to his wife.
You 'd better make two or three pailfuls o' strong
coffee, mother, 'n' bile three or four dozen aigs, 'n' heat
up a big batch o' them air mince pies. The folks down
here on the train '11 be mighty hungry this morning 'n'
I 've been down 'n' told 'em to come up here in 'bout
half an hour, 'n' git what they want. Don't charge'em
nothing ; let 'em pay what they've a min' ter. P'raps
some on 'em hain't nothing' to pay with, 'n' they '11 need
it jest as much as the rest. We must n't let folks starve
that git storm-staid right at our front-door. And now
all aboard for Pittsfield "
The hearty thanks and farewells to good Mrs. Ross
were soon said, and the Burnhams bundled out of the
kitchen into the wood-sled. It was a long rack with
upright stakes rising from a frame and held together by
side rails, through which the ends of the stakes pro-
jected a few inches. A side-board, about a foot in
80 The Strange /dventures of a Wood-sled
width, had been placed within the stakes on either side,
and the space so enclosed had been filled with clean oat-
straw. Miss Grace wrapped Mrs. Ross's heavy blanket
shawl round her seal-skin sacque, each of the two little
boys did himself up in a blanket, William robed himself
in his traveling-rug, and they all sat down in the straw,
two fronting forward and two backward, and placed
their feet against four hot flat-irons, wound in thick
woolen cloth, and laid together in a nest between them.
Over their laps a big buffalo-robe was thrown, and
Farmer Ross heaped the straw against their backs.
Away they went, shouting a merry good-bye to the
farmer's wife, secure against discomfort, and happy in
the hope of reaching home in time for their Christmas
dinner. Down in the railroad cut they saw the shov-
elers and the wreckers toiling at the disabled freight
cars, but not much stir was visible about the express
train that lay a little further down the track. The snow
did not appear to be very deep, and the ponies skipped
briskly along with their light load. Here and there was
a bare spot from which the snow had been blown, but
not many drifts were found, and these were easily
avoided, as Mr. Ross had said, by turning into the open
Farmer Ross was as blithe as the morning. From
his perch on a cross-board of the wood-rack he kept up
a brisk talk with the group in the straw behind him.
Fire enoughh in the stove?" he asked. "'T ain't
often that ye hev a stove like that to set 'round when
ye go sleigh-ridin'."
The Strange A/dventures of a Wood-sled
"All right, sir; it 's warm as toast," said Win.
"Genuine base-burner, is n't it?"
I should think your feet would be cold sitting up
there," said Grace.
0, no; not in this weather. 'Sides, if they do git
cold I knock 'em together a little, or else git off 'n' run
afoot a spell, 'n' they're soon warm agin."
Do you often go to Pittsfield? asked William.
"Yes, every month or so. Gin'rally du my trading'
thar. Tek along a little suthin' to sell commonly,-a
little jag o' wood, or a little butter, or a quarter o'
beef, or suthin'. I meant to hev gone down last week,
n' I had a big pile o' Christmas greens 't I meant to
tek along to sell, but I was hendered, 'n' could n't go.
There's the greens now-all piled up in the aidge o
the wood; I 'd got 'em all ready. 'Fraid they won't be
worth much next Christmas."
O, Mr. Ross!" cried Grace; "would it be very
much trouble for you to put that nearest pile of them on
the back part of the sled? I can find use for them at
home, I know, and I should like to take them with me
ever so much "
Sartinly; no trouble at all; and in two or three
great armfuls the pile of beautiful coral pine was heaped
upon the sleigh.
The morning wore on toward nine o'clock, and as
the sun rose higher the air grew warmer. The roads
were steadily improving, and the ponies trotted along
at a nimble pace. The boys began to be tired of sitting
82 The Strange Adventures of a Wood-sled
I 'm not going to burrow up in this straw any
longer," said Win; I 'm going to get up and stir
about a little."
So am I," said Phil.
It was easy enough to stand on the sled while it
was in motion. In rough places the boys could
take hold of the rail of the wood-rack; and even
if they fell it did not hurt them. Pretty soon Win,
who had an artist's eye, began to pull out long
vines of the evergreen and wind them round the
stakes of the wood-rack.
"I say, Phil," he cried, "if we only had some
string, we could fix this old frame so that it would
"Well, here 's your string," said Will, producing
a ball of twine from his overcoat-pocket and tossing
it to his brother. "I put that in my pocket by
mistake when I tied up my last package yesterday
morning, and have been wishing it in Amherst ever
"Jolly!" shouted Win. "Now, Mr. Ross, you '11
see what we '11 make of your wood-sled."
"Goin' t' make a kind o' Cindcreller coach on 't,
hey? Well, go ahead! I sha'n't be ashamed on 't, no
matter how fine ye fix it."
The boys' fingers flew. This was fun! Before
long all the stakes were trimmed, and a spiral
wreath of the evergreen had been run all round the
side-rail of the rack. It really began to look quite
fairy-like. William and Grace. first laughed at the
fancy of the boys, and then began to aid them with
The Strange c/dventures of a Wood-sled
suggestions; and presently William was up himself,
helping them in their work. Twine wound with the
evergreen was run diagonally across from the top of
each stake to the bottom of the nearest one; and
the wood-rack began to look very much like what
the poets call a wild-wood bower." All it needed
was a roof, and this was soon supplied. William
borrowed Mr. Ross's big jack-knife, leaped from the
sleigh, and cut eight willow rods, and they were
speedily wound with the evergreen. Then the ends
were made fast with twine to.the railing of the rack
on either side, and, arching overhead, they completed
the transformation of the wood-sled into a moving
arbor of evergreens.
The boys danced with merriment.
"Is n't it just gay?" cried Phil. "I never
dreamed that we could make it look so pretty!"
"We could n't have done it, either," said Win,
if Bill and Grace had n't helped us. But what
will the fellows say when they see us ridin' down
"What I am most curious to see," said Will,
"is the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Burnham and Baby
Burnham when this gay chariot drives up to their
door! They 're worrying about us powerfully by
this' time, and I reckon we 've a jolly surprise in
store for them."
I hope they will not be as badly frightened,"
said Grace, "as Macbeth was when he saw Bir-
nam wood' coming."
Pretty good for sis," laughed William.
The Strange Jlv.t',Ltfr,'s of a Wood-sled
"What's the joke?" inquired Win.
Too classic for small boys; you '11 have to get
up your Shakespear before you can appreciate it,"
answered the big brother.
"'Pears to me," now put in the charioteer from
his perch, "that a rig ez fine ez this oughter have
a leetle finer coachman. I ain't 'shamed o' the sled,
ez I said; but I dew think I oughter be fixed up a
leetle mite to match!"
You shall be," cried Grace. Here, boys, help me
wind a couple of wreaths."
Very soon, two light, twisted wreaths of evergreen
were ready, and Mr. Ross, with great laughter, threw
them over each shoulder and under the opposite arm, so
that they crossed before and behind, like the straps that
support a soldier's belt. Then his fur cap was quickly
trimmed with sprays of the evergreen, that rose in a
bell-crown all round his head.
Their journey was almost done. How quickly the
time had passed! Every few rods they met sleigh-
loads of people, happy because Christmas and the
sleighing had come together, and bent on making the
most of both. These merry-makers all looked with
wonder upon our travelers as they drew near, and
answered their loud shouts of Merry Christmas!"
with laughter and cheers.
They had not gone far through the streets of the
village before their kite had considerable tail. Just
what it meant the small boys did not know; but if this
driver was not Santa Claus, he was somebody equally
The Strange Adventures of a Wood-sled
good-natured, for he bowed and laughed right and left,
in the jolliest fashion, to the salutations of the boys,
and as many of them as could get near hitched their
hand-sleds to his triumphal car.
"'MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YE ALL!'"
Miss Grace was hidden from sight by the ever-
greens, and she enjoyed the sport of the boys almost as
much as they did.
Meantime, the hours were passing slowly at Mr.
Burnham's. The father and mother had been too
86 The Strange cAll'vetures of a Wood-sled
anxious about their children to sleep much during the
night. They could get no word from the train after it
left Chester, and the delay and uncertainty greatly dis-
tressed them. Mr. Burnham had just returned from the
station with the news that the wires were up, and that
the train had been heard from in the cut just beyond the
summit, where it was likely to be kept the greater part
of the day.
"Oh dear!" cried the mother. "I cannot have it
so! Can't we get at them in some way ? I 'm afraid
they will suffer with hunger. Then we had counted so
much on.this Christmas, and the children's fun is all
spoiled. Think of them sitting all this blessed holiday,
cooped up in those dreadful cars, waiting to be shoveled
out of a snow-drift. It seems as if I should fly. I wish
I could! "
"Well, my dear," said Mr. Burnham, soberly, "I
am sorry that the holiday is spoiled, but I see nothing
that we can do. We can trust William to take good
care of them and bring them all home safely; and we 've
got to be patient and wait."
Just then the heads of the ponies were turning in at
the gate of the wide lawn in front of the house. The
small boys who were following unhitched their hand-
sleds, and the escort remained outside the gate.
Drive slowly said William. Give them a good
chance to see us coming! "
Baby Burnham was at the window. Thanty
Kauth!" she cried. "Look! papa; look!"
"What does the child see!" said Mr. Burnham,
going to the window. Sure enough, baby. Do come
The Strange cAdventures of a Wood-sled
here, my dear. What fantastical establishment is this
coming up .our drive-way ? It"'s a bower of evergreens
on runners, and an old man with a white beard and a
white coat all trimmed up with greens sits up there
driving. He seems to be shaking with laughter, too.
What can it mean?"
Just then the wood-sled came alongside the porch,
and, suddenly, out from between the garlanded sled-
stakes four heads were quickly thrust and four voices
Merry Christmas !"
The children! Bless their hearts "
In a minute more, father and mother and baby and
the jolly travelers were all very much mixed up on the
porch, and there was a deal of hugging and kissing and
laughing and crying, while Farmer Ross on his own
hook, or rather on his own wood-sled, was laughing
softly, and crying a little, too. What made him cry I
wonder? Presently, Mr. Burnham said:
"But, Will, you have n't made us acquainted yet
with your charioteer."
It is Mr. Ross, father. He took us into his house
on Washington Mountain last night and treated us like
princes, and this morning he has brought us home, and
helped us in the heartiest way to carry out our fun."
Mr. Ross, we are greatly your debtors," said Mr.
Burnham. You have relieved us of a sore anxiety,
and brought us a great pleasure."
"Wall, I dunno," said the farmer; I did n't like to
think o' these 'ere children bein' kep' away from hum on
Christmas day; 'n' ef I 've helped 'em any way to hev
The Strange 4Adventures of a Wood-sled
a good time, why,-God bless 'em -I don't think
there 's any better thing an old man like me could be
doin' on sech a day as this!"
Just here Mr. Burnham's coachman came round the
corner in great haste.
"Well, Patrick, what is it?" said his master.
"The shafts uv that sleigh-bad look till 'em !-is
bruk, yer honor; 'n' I don't see how I '11 iver get thim
bashkits carried round at all! "
O, those baskets! cried Mr. Burnham in distress.
"Our Christmas baskets have n't been delivered yet,
and it 's almost eleven o'clock. The storm and our
worry about you kept us from delivering them last
night, and we have hardly thought of them this morn-
ing. I 'm afraid those poor people will have a late
"Baskets o' stuff for poor folks's dinners?" said
Farmer Ross; "let me take 'em round."
yes, father!" shouted Win; "let Phil and me
go with him! The baskets are marked, are n't they?
It 'll be jolly fun to deliver them out of this sled."
In a minute the baskets-half a dozen of them-
were loaded in, and within half an hour they were all
set down at the homes to which they were addressed,
Poor old Uncle Ned and Aunt Dinah hobbled to the
door and took in their basket with eyes full of wonder
at the strange vehicle that was just driving from their
doors; the Widow Blanchard's children, playing outside,
ran into the house when they saw the ponies coming,
but speedily came out after their basket and carried it
The Strange A/dventures of a Wood-sled
in, firm in the faith that they had had a sight of the veri-
table Santa Claus. To all the rest of the needy families
the gifts, though late, were welcome; and the bright
vision of the evergreen bower on runners brought glad-
ness with it into all those lowly homes.
Farmer Ross went back with the boys to their
home; his ponies were taken from the sled and given a
good Christmas dinner in Mr. Burnham's stable; he
himself was constrained to remain and partake of the
feast that would not have been eaten but for him, and
that lost none of its merriment because of him; and at
length, about three o'clock in the afternoon, the Christ-
mas car, stripped of its bravery, but carrying some
goodly gifts to Mrs. Ross, started on its return to
My little friends who read this story will be glad to
know that the Christmas festival at the church had been
deferred on account of the storm from Christmas eve to
Christmas evening; so that the Burnhams had a chance
to assist at the unloading of the Christmas tree.
They will also guess that Farmer Ross's house and
his barn and his orchard and his pasture and his woods
and his trout-brook and his blackberry bushes and his
dog and his ponies and his cows and his oxen and his
hens and pretty nearly every thing that was his had a
chance to get very well acquainted with Win and Phil
during the next summer vacation. It will be a long
time, I am sure, before the Rosses and the Burnhams
cease to be friends, and before any of them will forget
The Strange Adventures of a Wood-sled.
AN ANGEL IN AN ULSTER
'"W7 ,ELL, sir, I am sorry; but
i i I 've done the best I could
bi. for you."
'i. -It is the conductor on the
night express on the Eastern
i / Railroad who is speaking;
'--' and the passenger, to whom
his remark is addressed, stands
', '-- 'with watch in hand, near the
S door of the car, as the train draws
/ into the Boston station. "I do not
doubt it," is the answer. "You can
not be blamed for the delay. The other train must
have left the Western station already."
Undoubtedly; the time is past, and they always
start on time."
"And there is no train that connects through to
Cincinnati before to-morrow morning?"
"Well, that settles it. Thank you."
oAn YAngel in an Ulster
Mr. Haliburton Todd steps down from the plat-
form of the car, and walks slowly past the row of
beckoning and shouting hackmen. He is too good
a philosopher to be angry with the freshet that de-
layed the train, but there is a shade of disappoint-
ment on his face, and a trace of moisture in his eye.
He is a wholesome-looking man of forty-five, with
grayish hair and beard, blue eyes, and a ruddy
countenance. Probably he is never much given to
grinning, but just now his face is unusually grave;
nevertheless it is a kind face; under its sober mask
there is a world of good nature. In short, he is just
the sort of man that a shrewd girl of twelve would
pick out for an uncle. If any one thinks that is not
high praise, I should like to have him try his hand
There are, indeed, quite a number of boys and
girls to whom Uncle Hal is both a saint and a hero.
At that Christmas party, in the home of his sister in
the Western city to which he has been hurrying,
these boys and girls are to be assembled. All the
married brothers and sisters, with their families, will
be there. But it is of no use now for him to try to
join them. The feast will be ended and the circle will
be broken, before he can reach Cincinnati. So he
strolls out of the station and up the street. No,
he will not take a hack nor a horse-car; happy
people may consent to be carried; those whose
minds are troubled would better go afoot. He will
walk off his disappointment.
cAn eAngel in an Ulster
He trudges along the narrow streets; the drays
and the express wagons, laden with all sorts of
boxes and parcels, are clattering to and fro; porters,
large and small, are running with bundles, big and
little; the shops are crowded with eager customers.
Mr. Haliburton Todd is too good a man to be dis-
mal long in the midst of a scene like this. "What
hosts of people," he says to himself, "are thinking
and working with all their might to-day to make
other people happy to-morrow! And how happy
they all are themselves, to-day! We always say that
Christmas is the happiest day in the year; but is it?
Is n't it the day before Christmas?"
So thinking, he pauses at the window of a small
print-shop, when his attention is caught by the
voices of two children, standing in the hall at the foot
of the stairs leading to the stories above. On the sign
beside the door-way he reads, "Jackman & Company,
Manufacturers of Ladies' Underwear."
The children are a girl of twelve and a boy of ten,
neatly but plainly dressed; a troubled look is on their
How much, Ruby? asks the boy.
"Only seven dollars," answers the girl, choking
back a sob. "There were four dozen of the night-
dresses, and the price was two dollars a dozen; but the
man said that some of them were not well made, so he
kept back a dollar."
The man lied," says Ben, and I 'll go up and tell
iAn eAngel in an Ulster
"Oh, no," answers Ruby; "that would n't do any
good. He would n't mind you, and he might not give
us any more work. But the work was well done, if we
did help; for you run the machine beautifully, and
mamma says that my button-holes are every bit as good
as hers. Just think of it! Only seven dollars for two
weeks' hard work of all three of us! "
"We can't have the turkey," says Ben, sadly.
Oh, no. I found a nice young one down at the
corner store that we could get for a dollar and a half,
but we must lay by two dollars for the rent, you know;
and there '11 be coal to buy next week. I 'm sure
Mamma will think we can't afford it."
Come on, then," says Ben, bestowing a farewell
kick upon the iron sign of Jackman & Company.
Mr. Haliburton Todd has forgotten all about his
own disappointment in listening to the more serious
trouble of these two children. As they walk up the
street, he follows them closely, trying to imagine the
story of their lives. They stop now and then for a
moment to look into the windows of the toy-stores, and
to admire the sweet wonders of the confectioners, but
they do not tarry long. Presently, the eyes of Mr.
Todd are caught by a large theater-bill, announcing the
Oratorio of the Messiah, at Music Hall, Tuesday even-
ing, December 24, by the Handel and Haydn Society.
Mr. Lang is to play the great organ. Theodore
Thomas's orchestra is to assist, and the soloists are
Miss Thursby and Miss Cary, and Mr. Whitney and
Mr. -Sims Reeves.
4dn iwngel in an Ulster
"Correct!" says Mr. Haliburton Todd, aloud. He
knows now what he will do with the coming evening.
It is long since his passion for music has been promised
such a gratification.
While he pauses, he notes that Ruby and Ben are
scanning with eager eyes the same bill-board. Rather
remarkable children," he says to himself, "to care
for oratorio. If it were a minstrel show, I should n't
Would n't I like to go ?" says Ruby.
"Would n't I ?" echoes Ben, with a low whistle.
"Don't you remember," says the girl, "the night
Papa and Mamma took us to hear Nilsson ? Miss Cary
was there, you know, and she sang this:
"'Birds of the night that softly call,
Winds in the night that strangely sigh.' "
It is a sweet and sympathetic voice that croons the
first strain of Sullivan's lullaby.
I remember it," says Ben. Mamma used to sing
it afterward, pretty near as well as she did. And don't
you remember that French chap that played the violin ?
Blue Tom, they called him, or some such name."
"Vieuzxfemps," laughs Ruby, who knows a little
"Yes, that 's it. But could n't he make the old
fiddle dance, though!" And the boy tilts his basket
against his shoulder, and executes upon it an imaginary
roulade with an imaginary bow. "We used to have
good times at home, did n't we-when Papa played the
violin and Mamma the piano ?" Ben goes on.
tAn ~/ngel in an Ulster
"Don't pleads Ruby, turning, with a great sob,
from the bright promise of the bill-board.
The two children walk on in silence for a few
moments,-Mr. Haliburton Todd still close behind
them. Ruby has resolutely dried her tears, but her
thoughts are still with the great singers, and the voice
of the wonderful Swede is ringing through her memory,
for presently Mr. Todd hears her singing low:
"'Angels ever bright and fair
Take, oh, take me to your care!' "
"Well, my child," he says, in a low tone, I don't
think that angels are apt to have gray hairs in their
whiskers, nor to wear ulsters; but there's an old fellow
about my size that would like to be an angel just now
for your sake."
While he is talking thus to himself, the children turn
into the hall of a tenement house. Mr. Haliburton
Todd glances after them, and sees them entering a room
on the first landing. He walks on a few steps slowly,
hesitates, then quickly turns back. In a moment he is
knocking at the door which had been opened for the
children. The knock is answered by the boy.
"I beg your pardon, my little man," says Mr.
Todd. I am a stranger to you; but I should like to
see your mother if she is not engaged."
Come in, sir," says a voice within. It is the voice
of a lady. Her face is pale and anxious, but her man-
ner is quiet and self-possessed.
It is a curious errand that brings me, madam,"
says Mr. Haliburton Todd; "but I trust you'will par-