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"L Tt. dLTTLE RUGGLESES BOIE IT BRAVELY") (Pge 36)
BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
(ibe Ltibcrribe prLc' Eamnbribge
COPYRIGHT, I886, BY KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
COPYRIGHT, I888, BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN
AND COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Five Hundred and Fortieth Thousand
TO THE THREE DEAREST CHILDREN
IN THE WORLD
BERTHA, LUCY, AND HORATIO
CONTENTS AND LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The little Ruggleses bore it bravely" (page 36) Frontispiece
I. A LITTLE SNOW BIRD .. 1
She is a little Christmas Child . 7
II. DROOPING WINGS 10
III. THE BIRD'S NEST 15
Carol at her window 21
IV. "BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER" 22
The Window School .. 31
V. SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY. 32
I want ter see how yer going' ter behave" 39
VI. "WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED, 48
THE BIRDS BEGAN TO SING! "
The ruggleses never forgot it" . .. 55
I beat the hull lot o' yer .. 62
VII. THE BIRDLING FLIES AWAY 63
My Ain Countree" 65
I thought of the Star in the East" . 69
THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
A LITTLE SNOW BIRD
T was very early Christmas morning,
and in the stillness of the dawn, with
the soft snow falling on the house-
tops, a little child was born in the
They had intended to name the baby Lucy, if it
were a girl; but they had not expected her on
Christmas morning, and a real Christmas baby was
not to be lightly named the whole family agreed
They were consulting about it in the nursery.
Mr. Bird said that he had assisted in naming the
three boys, and that he should leave this matter en-
tirely to Mrs. Bird; Donald wanted the child called
" Dorothy," after a pretty, curly-haired girl who sat
-next him in school; Paul choose "Luella," for Luella
was the nurse who had been with him during his
2 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
whole babyhood, up to the time of his first trousers,
and the name suggested all sorts of comfortable
things. Uncle Jack said that the first girl should
always be named for her mother, no matter how
hideous the name happened to be..
Grandma said that she would prefer not to take
any part in the discussion, and everybody suddenly
remembered that Mrs. Bird had thought of naming
the baby Lucy, for Grandma herself; and, while it
would be indelicate for her to favor that name, it
would be against human nature for her to suggest
any other, under the circumstances.
Hugh, the hitherto baby," if that is a possible
term, sat in one corner and said nothing, but felt, in
some mysterious way, that his nose was out of joint;
for there was a newer baby now, a possibility he had
never taken into consideration; and the first girl,"
too, -a still higher development of treason, which
made him actually green with jealousy.
But it was too profound a subject to be settled
then and there, on the spot; besides, Mamma had
not been asked, and everybody felt it rather absurd,
after all, to forestall a decree that was certain to be
absolutely wise, just, and perfect.
The reason that the subject had been brought up
at all so early in the day lay in the fact that Mrs.
A LITTLE SNOW BIRD 3
Bird never allowed her babies to go over night
unnamed. She was a person of so great decision of
character that she would have blushed at such a
thing; she said that to let blessed babies go dan-
gling and dawdling about without names, for months
and months, was enough to ruin them for life. She
also said that if one could not make up one's mind
in twenty-four hours it was a sign that But I
will not repeat the rest, as it might prejudice you
against the most charming woman in the world.
So Donald took his new velocipede and went out
to ride up and down the stone pavement and notch
the shins of innocent people as they passed by, while
Paul spun his musical top on the front steps.
But Hugh refused to leave the scene of action.
He seated himself on the top stair in the hall,
banged his head against the railing a few times, just
by way of uncorking the vials of his wrath, and then
subsided into gloomy silence, waiting to declare war
if more first girl babies were thrust upon a fam-
ily already surfeited with that unnecessary article.
Meanwhile dear Mrs. Bird lay in her room, weak,
but safe and happy, with her sweet girl baby by her
side and the heaven of motherhood opening again
before her. Nurse was making gruel in the kitchen,
and the room was dim and quiet. There was a cheer-
4 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
ful open fire in the grate, but though the shutters
were closed, the side windows that looked out on the
Church of Our Saviour, next door, were a little open.
Suddenly a sound of music poured out into the
bright air and drifted into the chamber. It was the
boy choir singing Christmas anthems. Higher and
higher rose the clear, fresh voices, full of hope
and cheer, as children's voices always are. Fuller
and fuller grew the burst of melody as one glad
strain fell upon another in joyful harmony :-
Carol, brothers, carol,
Carol the good tidings,
Carol merrily !
And pray a gladsome Christmas
For all your fellow-men :
Carol, brothers, carol,
Christmas Day again."
One verse followed another, always with the same
sweet refrain :--
"And pray a gladsome Christmas
For all your fellow-men:
Carol, brothers, carol,
Christmas Day again."
Mrs. Bird thought, as the music floated in upon
her gentle sleep, that she had slipped into heaven
with her new baby, and that the angels were bidding
A LITTLE SNOW BIRD 5
them welcome. But the tiny bundle by her side
stirred a little, and though it was scarcely more than
the ruffling of a feather, she awoke; for the mother-
ear is so close to the heart that it can hear the faint-
est whisper of a child.
She opened her eyes and drew the baby closer. It
looked like a rose dipped in milk, she thought, this
pink and white blossom of girlhood, or like a pink
cherub, with its halo of pale yellow hair, finer than
"Carol, brothers, carol,
Carol the good tidings,
Carol merrily !"
The voices were brimming over with joy.
Why, my baby," whispered Mrs. Bird in soft
surprise, I had forgotten what day it was. You
are a little Christmas child, and we will name you
'Carol'-- mother's Christmas Carol! "
What! said Mr. Bird, coming in softly and
closing the door behind him.
"Why, Donald, don't you think 'Carol' is a
sweet name for a Christmas baby? It came to me
just a moment ago in the singing, as I was lying
here half asleep and half awake."
"I think it is a charming name, dear heart, and
6 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
sounds just like you, and I hope that, being a girl,
this baby has some chance of being as lovely as her
mother; "- at which speech from the baby's papa,
Mrs. Bird, though she was as weak and tired as she
could be, blushed with happiness.
,And so Carol came by her name.
OE course, it was thought foolish by many people,
though Uncle Jack declared laughingly that it was
very strange if a whole family of Birds could not
be indulged in a single Carol; and Grandma, who
adored the child; thought the name much more ap-
propriate than Lucy, but was glad that people would
probably think it short for Caroline.
Perhaps because she was born in holiday time,
Carol was a very happy baby. Of course, she was
too tiny to understand the joy of Christmas-tide, but
people say there is everything in a good beginning,
and she may have breathed in unconsciously the
fragrance of evergreens and holiday dinners; while
the peals of sleigh-bells and the laughter of happy
children may have fallen upon her baby ears and
wakened in them a glad surprise at the merry world
she had come to live in.
Her cheeks and lips were as red as holly-berries;
her hair was for all the world the color of a Christ-
mas candle-flame; her eyes were bright as stars;
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8_H_ IS A I CS
A LITTLE SNOW BIRD 9
her laugh like a chime of Christmas-bells, and her
tiny hands forever outstretched in giving.
Such a generous little creature you never saw! A
spoonful of bread and milk had always to be taken
by Mamma or nurse before Carol could enjoy her
supper; whatever bit of cake or sweetmeat found its
way into her pretty fingers was straightway broken
in half to be shared with Donald, Paul, or Hugh;
and when they made believe nibble the morsel with
affected enjoyment, she would clap her hands and
crow with delight.
Why does she do it ? asked Donald thought-
fully. None of us boys ever did."
"I hardly know," said Mamma, catching her
darling to her heart, "except that she is a little
Christmas child, and so she has a tiny share of the
blessedest birthday the world ever knew "
T was December, ten years later.
Carol had seen nine Christmas
trees lighted on her birthdays, one
after another; nine times she had
assisted in the holiday festivities of
the household, though in her babyhood her share
of the gayeties was somewhat limited.
For five years, certainly, she had hidden presents
for Mamma and Papa in their own bureau drawers,
and harbored a number of secrets sufficiently large
to burst a baby brain, had it not been for the re-
lief gained by whispering them all to Mamma, at
night, when she was in her crib, a proceeding which
did not in the least lessen the value of a secret in
her innocent mind.
For five years she had heard "'Twas the night
before Christmas," and hung up a scarlet stocking
many sizes too large for her, and pinned a sprig of
holly on her little white nightgown, to show Santa
DROOPING WINGS 11
Claus that she was a "truly" Christmas child,
and dreamed of fur-coated saints and toy-packs and
reindeer, and wished everybody a Merry Christ-
mas" before it was light in the morning, and lent
every one of her new toys to the neighbors' chil-
dren before noon, and eaten turkey and plum-
pudding, and gone to bed at night in a trance of
happiness at the day's pleasures.
Donald was away at college now. Paul and
Hugh were great manly fellows, taller than their
mother. Papa Bird had gray hairs in his whiskers;
and Grandma, God bless her, had been four Christ-
mases in heaven.
But Christmas in the Birds' Nest was scarcely
as merry now as it used to be in the bygone years,
for the little child, that once brought such an added
blessing to the day, lay month after month a pa-
tient, helpless invalid, in the room where she was
born. She had never been very strong in body,
and it was with a pang of terror her mother and
father noticed, soon after she was five years old,
that she began to limp, ever so slightly; to com-
plain too often of weariness, and to nestle close to
her mother, saying she would rather not go out
to play, please." The illness was slight at first,
and hope was always stirring in Mrs. Bird's heart.
12 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
" Carol would feel stronger in the summer-time;"
or," She would be better when she had spent a year
in the country;" or, "She would outgrow it;" or,
"They would try a new physician;" but by and
by it came to be all too sure that no physician
save One could make Carol strong again, and that
no summer-time nor "country air," unless it
were the everlasting summer-time in a heavenly
country, could bring back the little girl to health.
The cheeks and lips that were once as red as
holly-berries faded to faint pink; the star-like eyes
grew softer, for they often gleamed through tears;
and the gay child-laugh, that had been like a chime
of Christmas bells, gave place to a smile so lovely,
so touching, so tender and patient, that it filled
every corner of the house with a gentle radiance
that might have come from the face of the Christ,
Love could do nothing; and when we have said
that we have said all, for it is stronger than any-
thing else in the whole wide world. Mr. and Mrs.
Bird were talking it over one evening, when all
the children were asleep. A famous physician had
visited them that day, and told them that some time,
it might be in one year, it might be in more, Carol
would slip quietly off into heaven, whence she came.
DROOPING WINGS 13
It is no use to close our eyes to it any longer,"
said Mr. Bird, as he paced up and down the library
floor; Carol will never be well again. It almost
seems as if I could not bear it when I think of that
loveliest child doomed to lie there day after day,
and, what is still more, to suffer pain that we are
helpless to keep away from her. Merry Christmas,
indeed; it gets to be the saddest day in the year
to me and poor Mr. Bird sank into a chair by the
table, and buried his face in his hands to keep his
wife from seeing the tears that would come in spite
of all his efforts.
But, Donald, dear," said sweet Mrs. Bird, with
trembling voice, Christmas Day may not be so
merry with us as it used, but it is very happy, and
that is better, and very blessed, and that is better
yet. I suffer chiefly for Carol's sake, but I have
almost given up being sorrowful for my own. I am
too happy in the child, and I see too clearly what
she has done for us and the other children. Donald
and Paul and Hugh were three strong, willful,
boisterous boys, but now you seldom see such tender-
ness, devotion, thought for others, and self-denial in
lads of their years. A quarrel or a hot word is almost
unknown in this house, and why ? Carol would hear
it, and it would distress her, she is so full of love and
14 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
goodness. The boys study with all their might and
main. Why ? Partly, at least, because they like to
teach Carol, and amuse her by telling her what they
read. When the seamstress comes, she likes to sew
in Miss Carol's room, because there she forgets her
own troubles, which, Heaven knows, are sore enough!
And as for me, Donald, I am a better woman every
day for Carol's sake; I have to be her eyes, ears,
feet, hands, her strength, her hope; and she, my
own little child, is my example "
I was wrong, dear heart," said Mr. Bird more
cheerfully; we will try not to repine, but to re-
joice instead, that we have an 'angel of the house.' "
And as for her future," Mrs. Bird went on, I
think we need not be over-anxious. I feel as if she
did not belong altogether to us, but that when she
has done what God sent her for, He will take her
back to Himself and it may not be very long "
Here it was poor Mrs. Bird's turn to break down,
and Mr. Bird's turn to comfort her.
THE BIRDS' NEST
AROL herself knew nothing of mo-
therly tears and fatherly anxieties;
she lived on peacefully in the room
where she was born.
But you never would have known
that room; for Mr. Bird had a great deal of money,
and though he felt sometimes as if he wanted to
throw it all in the sea, since it could not buy a
strong body for his little girl, yet he was glad to
make the place she lived in just as beautiful as it
The room had been extended by the building of a
large addition that hung out over the garden below,
and was so filled with windows that it might have
been a conservatory. The ones on the side were
thus still nearer the Church of Our Saviour than
they used to be; those in front looked out on the
beautiful harbor, and those in the back commanded
a view of nothing in particular but a narrow alley;
16 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
nevertheless, they were pleasantest of all to Carol,
for the Ruggles family lived in the alley, and the
nine little, middle-sized, and big Ruggles children
were a source of inexhaustible interest.
The shutters could all be opened and Carol could
take a real sun-bath in this lovely glass house, or
they could all be closed when the dear head ached
or the dear eyes were tired. The carpet was of soft
gray, with clusters of green bay and holly leaves.
The furniture was of white wood, on which an artist
had painted snow scenes and Christmas trees and
groups of merry children ringing bells and singing
Donald had made a pretty, polished shelf, and
screwed it on the outside of the foot-board, and the
boys always kept this full of blooming plants, which
they changed from time to time; the head-board,
too, had a bracket on either side, where there were
pots of maiden-hair ferns.
Love-birds and canaries hung in their golden
houses in the windows, and they, poor caged things,
could hop as far from their wooden perches as
Carol could venture from her little white bed.
On one side of the room was a bookcase filled with
hundreds yes, I mean it with hundreds and
hundreds of books; books with gay-colored pictures,
THE BIRDS' NEST 17
books without; books with black and white outline
sketches, books with none at all; books with verses,
books with stories; books that made children laugh,
and some, only a few, that made them cry; books
with words of one syllable for tiny boys and girls,
and books with words of fearful length to puzzle
This was Carol's Circulating Library." Every
Saturday she chose ten books, jotting their names
down in a diary; into these she slipped cards that
"Please keep this book two weeks and read it.
With love, CAROL BIRD."
Then Mrs. Bird stepped into her carriage and
took the ten books to the Children's Hospital, and
brought home ten others that she had left there the
This was a source of great happiness; for some of
the Hospital children that were old enough to print
or write, and were strong enough to do it, wrote
Carol sweet little letters about the books, and she
answered them, and they grew to be friends. (It
is very funny, but you do not always have to see
people to love them. Just think about it, and tell
me if it isn't so.)
There was a high wainscoting of wood about the
18 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
room, and on top of this, in a narrow gilt framework,
ran a row of illuminated pictures, illustrating fairy
tales, all in dull blue and gold and scarlet and silver.
From the door to the closet there was the story of
" The Fair One with Golden Locks; from closet to
bookcase, ran "Puss in Boots ;" from bookcase to
fireplace, was "Jack the Giant-killer; and on the
other side of the room were Hop o' my Thumb,"
"The Sleeping Beauty," and Cinderella."
Then there was a great closet full of beautiful
things to wear, but they were all dressing-gowns and
slippers and shawls; and there were drawers full of
toys and games, but they were such as you could
play with on your lap. There were no ninepins, nor
balls, nor bows and arrows, nor bean bags, nor ten-
nis rackets; but, after all, other children needed
these more than Carol Bird, for she was always
happy and contented, whatever she had or whatever
she lacked; and after the room had been made so
lovely for her, on her eighth Christmas, she always
called herself, in fun, a Bird of Paradise."
On these particular December days she was happier
than usual, for Uncle Jack was coming from England
to spend the holidays. Dear, funny, jolly, loving,
wise Uncle Jack, who came every two or three years,
and brought so much joy with him that the world
THE BIRDS' NEST 19
looked as black as a thunder-cloud for a week after
he went away again.
The mail had brought this letter: -
LONDON, November 28, 188-.
Wish you merry Christmas, you dearest birdlings in America!
Preen your feathers, and stretch the Birds' nest a trifle, if you
please, and let Uncle Jack in for the holidays. I am coming
with such a trunk full of treasures that you '11 have to borrow
the stockings of Barnum's Giant and Giantess; I am coming
to squeeze a certain little lady-bird until she cries for mercy; I
am coming to see if I can find a boy to take care of a black
pony that I bought lately. It's the strangest thing I ever knew;
I've hunted all over Europe, and can't find a boy to suit me!
I'll tell you why. I've set my heart on finding one with a
dimple in his chin, because this pony particularly likes dimples!
[" Hurrah! cried Hugh; bless my dear dimple; I '11 never be
ashamed of it again."]
Please drop a note to the clerk of the weather, and have a
good, rousing snow-storm say on the twenty-second. None of
your meek, gentle, nonsensical, shilly-shallying snow-storms; not
the sort where the flakes float lazily down from the sky as if
they did n't care whether they ever got here or not and then
melt away as soon as they touch the earth, but a regular busi-
ness-like whizzing, whirring, blurring, cutting snow-storm, war-
ranted to freeze and stay on !
I should like rather a LARGE Christmas tree, if it's con-
venient: not one of those "sprigs," five or six feet high, that
you used to have three or four years ago, when the birdlings
were not fairly feathered out; but a tree of some size. Set it
20 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
up in the garret, if necessary, and then we can cut a hole in the
roof if the tree chances to be too high for the room.
Tell Bridget to begin to fatten a turkey. Tell her that by
the twentieth of December that turkey must not be able to
stand on its legs for fat, and then on the next three days she
must allow it to recline easily on its side, and stuff it to burst-
ing. (One ounce of stuffing beforehand is worth a pound
The pudding must be unusually huge, and darkly, deeply,
lugubriously blue in color. It must be stuck so full of plums
that the pudding itself will ooze out into the pan and not be
brought on to the table at all. I expect to be there by the
twentieth, to manage these little things myself, remembering
it is the early Bird that catches the worm, but give you the
instructions in case I should be delayed.
And Carol must decide on the size of the tree -she knows
best, she was a Christmas child; and she must plead for the
snow-storm the clerk of the weather" may pay some atten-
tion to her; and she must look up the boy with the dimple for
me she 's likelier to find him than I am, this minute. She
must advise about the turkey, and Bridget must bring the
pudding to her bedside and let her drop every separate
plum into it and stir it once for luck, or I '11 not eat a single
slice -for Carol is the dearest part of Christmas to Uncle
Jack, and he'll have none of it without her. She is better than
all the turkeys and puddings and apples and spare-ribs and
wreaths and garlands and mistletoe and stockings and chim-
neys and sleigh-bells in Christendom! She is the very sweet-
est Christmas Carol that was ever written, said, sung, or
chanted, and I am coming as fast as ships and railway trains
can carry me, to tell her so.
THE BIRDS' NEST 21
Carol's joy knew no bounds. Mr. and Mrs. Bird
laughed like children and kissed each other for
sheer delight, and when the boys heard it they
simply whooped like wild Indians; until the
Ruggles family, whose back yard joined their gar-
den, gathered at the door and wondered what was
' up in the big house.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER
NCLE JACK did really come on the
twentieth.) He was not detained by
business, nor did he get left behind
nor snowed up, as frequently happens
in stories, and in real life too, I am
afraid. The snow-storm came also; and the turkey
nearly died a natural and premature death from
overeating. Donald came, too; Donald, with a
line of down upon his upper lip, and Greek and
Latin on his tongue, and stores of knowledge in his
handsome head, and stories bless me, you could n't
turn over a chip without reminding Donald of some-
thing that happened "at College." One or the
other was always at Carol's bedside, for they fan-
cied her paler than she used to be, and they could
not bear her out of sight. It was Uncle Jack,
though, who sat beside her in the winter twilights.
The room was quiet, and almost dark, save for the
snow-light outside, and the flickering flame of the
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER 23
fire, that danced over the Sleeping Beauty's"
face and touched the Fair One's golden locks with
ruddier glory. Carol's hand (all too thin and white
these latter days) lay close clasped in Uncle Jack's,
and they talked together quietly of many, many
I want to tell you all about my plans for Christ-
mas this year, Uncle Jack," said Carol, on the first
evening of his visit, "because it will be the loveliest
one I ever had. The boys laugh at me for caring
so much about it; but it is n't altogether because it
is Christmas, nor because it is my birthday; but
long, long ago, when I first began to be ill, I used
to think, the first thing when I waked on Christ-
mas morning, 'To-day is Christ's birthday and
mine!' I did not put the words close together,
you know, because that made it seem too bold; but
I first said, Christ's birthday,' out loud, and then,
in a minute, softly to myself-- and mine!'
SChrist's birthday and mine!' And so I do
not quite feel about Christmas as other girls do.
Mamma says she supposes that ever so many other
children have been born on that day. I often won-
der where they are, Uncle Jack, and whether it is
a dear thought to them, too, or whether I am so
much in bed, and so often alone, that it means
24 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
more to me. Oh, I do hope that none of them are
poor, or cold, or hungry; and I wish I wish they
were all as happy as I, because they are really my
little brothers and sisters. (Now, Uncle Jack dear,
I am going to try and make somebody happy every
single Christmas that I live, and this year it is to
be the Ruggleses in the rear.' "
"That large and interesting brood of children in
the little house at the end of the back garden ? "
Yes; is n't it nice to see so many together? -
and, Uncle Jack, why do the big families always
live in the small houses, and the small families in
the big houses? We ought to call them the
Ruggles children, of course; but Donald began
talking of them as the Ruggleses in the rear,' and
Papa and Mamma took it up, and now we cannot
seem to help it. The house was built for Mr. Car-
ter's coachman, but Mr. Carter lives in Europe, and
the gentleman who rents his place for him does n't
care what happens to it, and so this poor family
came to live there. When they first moved in, I
used to sit in my window and watch them play in
their back yard; they are so strong, and jolly, and
good-natured; and then, one day, I had a ter-
rible headache, and Donald asked them if they
would please not scream quite so loud, and they
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER 25
explained that they were having a game of circus,
but that they would change and play 'Deaf and
Dumb Asylum' all the afternoon."
Ha, ha, ha! laughed Uncle Jack, "what an
obliging family, to be sure!"
Yes, we all thought it very funny, and I smiled
at them from the window when I was well enough
to be up again. Now, Sarah Maud comes to her
door when the children come home from school,
and if Mamma nods her head, 'Yes,' that means
SCarol is very well,' and then you ought to hear
the little Ruggleses yell, I believe they try to see
how much noise they can make; but if Mamma
shakes her head, 'No,' they always play at quiet
games. Then, one day, 'Cary,' my pet canary,
flew out of her cage, and Peter Ruggles caught her
and brought her back, and I had him up here in
my room to thank him."
"Is Peter the oldest?"
"No; Sarah Maud is the oldest -she helps do
the washing; and Peter is the next. He is a dress-
"And which is the pretty little red-haired girl ?"
"And the fat youngster ?"
26 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
And that most freckled one ? "
Now, don't laugh that's Peoria."
Carol, you are joking."
"No, really, Uncle dear. She was born in Pe
oria ; that's all."
"And is the next boy Oshkosh ? "
"No," laughed Carol, the others are Susan, and
Clement, and Eily, and Cornelius; they all look
exactly alike, except that some of them have more
freckles than the others."
How did you ever learn all their names?"
Why, I have what I call a 'window-school.' It
is too cold now; but in warm weather I am wheeled
out on my balcony, and the Ruggleses climb up
and walk along our garden fence, and sit down on
the roof of our carriage-house. That brings them
quite near, and I tell them stories. On Thanks-
giving Day they came up for a few minutes, -it
was quite warm at eleven o'clock, and we told
each other what we had to be thankful for; but
they gave such queer answers that Papa had to run
away for fear of laughing; and I could n't under-
stand them very well. Susan was thankful for
' trunks,' of all things in the world; Cornelius, for
'horse-cars ;' Kitty, for 'pork steak;' while Clem,
who is very quiet, brightened up when I came to
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER 27
him, and said he was thankful for 'his lame
puppy.' Was n't that pretty ? "
It might teach some of us a lesson, might n't it,
little girl? "
"That's what Mamma said. Now I'm going to
give this whole Christmas to the Ruggleses; and,
Uncle Jack, I earned part of the money myself."
You, my bird; how ? "
"Well, you see, it could not be my own, own
Christmas if Papa gave me all the money, and I
thought to really keep Christ's birthday I ought to
do something of my very own; and so I talked
with Mamma. Of course she thought of something
lovely; she always does: Mamma's head is just
brimming over with lovely thoughts, -all I have
to do is ask, and out pops the very one I want.
This thought was to let her write down, just as I
told her, a description of how a child lived in her
own room for three years, and what she did to
amuse herself; and we sent it to a magazine and
got twenty-five dollars for it. Just think !"
"Well, well," cried Uncle Jack, my little girl
a real author! SAnd what are you going to do
with this wonderful own money of yours?"
SI shall give the nine Ruggleses a grand Christ-
mas dinner here in this very room- that will be
28 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
Papa's contribution, and afterwards a beautiful
Christmas tree, fairly blooming with presents -
that will be my part; for I have another way of
adding to my twenty-five dollars, so that I can buy
nearly anything I choose. I should like it very
much if you would sit at the head of the table,
Uncle Jack, for nobody could ever be frightened of
you, you dearest, dearest, dearest thing that ever
was! Mamma is going to help us, but Papa and
the boys are going to eat together downstairs for
fear of making the little Ruggleses shy; and after
we've had a merry time with the tree we can open
my window and all listen together to the music at
the evening church-service, if it comes before the
children go. I have written a letter to the organ-
ist, and asked him if I might have the two songs I
like best. Will you see if it is all right?"
BIRDS' NEST, December 21, 188-.
DEAR MR. WILKIE, I am the little girl who lives next
door to the church, and, as I seldom go out, the music on prac.
tice days and Sundays is one of my greatest pleasures.
I want to know if you can have Carol, brothers, carol," on
Christmas night, and if the boy who sings My ain countree so
beautifully may please sing that too. I think it is the loveliest
thing in the world, but it always makes me cry ; does n't it you ?
If it is n't too much trouble, I hope they can sing them both
quite early, as after ten o'clock I may be asleep.
Yours respectfully, CAROL BIRD.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER 29
P. S. The reason I like "Carol, brothers, carol," is be-
cause the choir-boys sang it eleven years ago, the morning I
was born, and put it into Mamma's head to call me Carol.
She did n't remember then that my other name would be Bird,
because she was half asleep, and could only think of one thing
at a time. Donald says if I had been born on the Fourth of
July they would have named me "Independence," or if on the
twenty-second of February, "Georgina," or even Cherry,"
like Cherry in Martin Chuzzlewit ;" but I like my own name
and birthday best. Yours truly,
Uncle Jack thought the letter quite right, and
did not even smile at her telling the organist so
many family items.
The days flew by as they always fly in holiday
time, and it was Christmas Eve before anybody
knew it.) The family festival was quiet and very
pleasant, but almost overshadowed by the grander
preparations for the next day. Carol and Elfrida,
her pretty German nurse, had ransacked books, and
introduced so many plans, and plays, and customs,
and merry-makings from Germany, and Holland,
and England, and a dozen other countries, that you
would scarcely have known how or where you were
keeping Christmas. Even the dog and the cat had
enjoyed their celebration under Carol's direction.
Each had a tiny table with a lighted candle in the
30 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
centre, and a bit of Bologna sausage placed very
near it; and everybody laughed till the tears stood
in their eyes to see Villikins and Dinah struggle to
nibble the sausages, and at the same time to evade
the candle flame. Villikins barked, and sniffed,
and howled in impatience, and after many vain at-
tempts succeeded in dragging off the prize, though
he singed his nose in doing it. Dinah, meanwhile,
watched him placidly, her delicate nostrils quiver-
ing with expectation, and, after all excitement had
subsided, walked with dignity to the table, her
beautiful gray satin trail sweeping behind her, and,
calmly putting up one velvet paw, drew the sausage
gently down, and walked out of the room without
turning a hair, so to speak. Elfrida had scattered
handfuls of seed over the snow in the garden, that
the wild birds might have a comfortable breakfast
next morning, and had stuffed bundles of dry
grasses in the fireplaces, so that the reindeer of
Santa Claus could refresh themselves after their
long gallops across country. This was really only
done for fun, but it pleased Carol.
And when, after dinner, the whole family had
gone to the church to see the Christmas decorations,
Carol limped out on her slender crutches, and with
Elfrida's help, placed all the family boots in a row
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER 81
in the upper hall. That was to keep the dear ones
from quarreling all through the year. There were
Papa's stout top boots; Mamma's pretty buttoned
shoes next; then Uncle Jack's, Donald's, Paul's,
and Hugh's; and at the end of the line her own
little white worsted slippers. Last, and sweetest of
all, like the children in Austria, she put a lighted
candle in her window to guide the dear Christ-
child, lest he should stumble in the dark night as
he passed up the deserted street. This done, she
dropped into bed, a rather tired, but very happy
' ,v '^-r r N f .. i "
S "" _-
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY
EFORE the earliest Ruggles could
wake and toot his five-cent tin horn,
Mrs. Ruggles was up and stirring
about the house, for it was a gala
day in the family.' Gala day! I
should think so Were not her nine "childern"
invited to a dinner-party at the great house, and
were n't they going to sit down free and equal with
the mightiest in the land? She had been prepar-
ing for this grand occasion ever since the receipt of
Carol Bird's invitation, which, by the way, had been
speedily enshrined in an old photograph frame and
hung under the looking-glass in the most promi-
nent place in the kitchen, where it stared the occa-
sional visitor directly in the eye, and made him livid
BIRDS' NEST, December 17, 188-.
DEAR MRS. RUGGLES, I am going to have a dinner-party
on Christmas Day, and would like to have all your children
come. I want them every one, please, from Sarah Maud to
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 33
Baby Larry. Mamma says dinner will be at half past five, and
the Christmas tree at seven; so you may expect them home at
nine o' clock. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy
New Year, I am Yours truly,
Breakfast was on the table promptly at seven
o' clock, and there was very little of it, too; for it
was an excellent day for short rations, though Mrs.
Ruggles heaved a sigh as she reflected that the
boys, with their India-rubber stomachs, would be
just as hungry the day after the dinner-party as if
they had never had any at all.
As soon as the scanty meal was over, she an-
nounced the plan of the campaign : Now, Susan,
you an' Kitty wash up the dishes; an' Peter, can't
yer spread up the beds, so 't I can git ter cutting' out
Larry's new suit ? I ain't satisfied with his clo'es,
an' I thought in the night of a way to make him a
dress out o' my old red plaid shawl kind o' Scotch
style, yer know, with the fringe 't the bottom. -
Eily, you go find the comb and take the snarls out
the fringe, that's a lady! You little young ones
clear out from under foot! Clem, you and Con hop
into bed with Larry while I wash yer underflan-
nins; 't won't take long to dry 'em. Yes, I know
it's bothersome, but yer can't go int' society 'thout
34 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
takin' some trouble, 'n' anyhow I couldn't git
round to 'em last night.- Sarah Maud, I think
't would be perfeckly han'som' if you ripped them
brass buttons off yer uncle's policeman's coat 'n'
sewed 'em in a row up the front o' yer green skirt.
Susan, you must iron out yours 'n' Kitty's apurns;
'n' there, I come mighty near forgettin' Peory's
stockin's! I counted the whole lot last night when
I was washin' of 'em, 'n' there ain't but nineteen
anyhow yer fix 'em, 'n' no nine pairs mates nohow;
'n' I ain't goin' ter have my childern wear odd
stockin's to a dinner-comp'ny, fetched up as I was!
- Eily, can't you run out and ask Mis' Cullen ter
lend me a pair o' stockin's for Peory, 'n' tell her if
she will, Peory 'll give Jim half her candy when she
gets home. Won't yer, Peory ?"
Peoria was young and greedy, and thought the
remedy so out of all proportion to the disease, that
she set up a deafening howl at the projected bar-
gain a howl so rebellious and so entirely out of
season that her mother started in her direction with
flashing eye and uplifted hand; but she let it fall
suddenly, saying, "No, I vow I won't lick ye
Christmas Day, if yer drive me crazy; but speak up
smart, now, 'n' say whether yer 'd ruther give Jim
Cullen half yer candy or go bare-legged ter the
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 35
party ?" The matter being put so plainly, Peoria
collected her faculties, dried her tears, and chose
the lesser evil, Clem having hastened the decision
by an affectionate wink, that meant he'd go halves
with her on his candy.
That's a lady cried her mother. Now, you
young ones that ain't doin' nothing play all yer
want ter before noontime, for after ye git through
eatin' at twelve o'clock me 'n' Sarah Maud 's goin'
ter give yer sech a washin' 'n' combine' 'n' dressing'
as yer never had before 'n' never will agin likely,
'n' then I'm goin' to set yer down 'n' give yer two
solid hours training' in manners; 'n' 't won't be no
"All we've got ter do's go eat!" grumbled
"Well, that's enough," responded his mother;
"there 's more 'n one way of eating let me tell yer,
'n' you've got a heap ter learn about it, Peter Rug-
gles. Land sakes, I wish you childern could see
the way I was fetched up to eat. I never took a
meal o' vittles in the kitchen before I married Rug-
gles; but yer can't keep up that style with nine
young ones 'n' yer Pa always off ter sea."
The big Ruggleses worked so well, and the little
Ruggleses kept from under foot" so success-
86 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
fully, that by one o'clock nine complete toilets
were laid out in solemn grandeur on the beds. I
say, "complete;" but I do not know whether
they would be called so in the best society. The
law of compensation had been well applied: he that
had necktie had no cuffs; she that had sash had
no handkerchief, and vice versa; but they all had
shoes and a certain amount of clothing, such as it
was, the outside layer being in every case quite
Now, Sarah Maud," said Mrs. Ruggles, her face
shining with excitement, everything's red up an'
we can begin. I've got a boiler 'n' a kettle 'n' a
pot o' hot water. Peter, you go into the back bed-
room, 'n' I'll take Susan, Kitty, Peory, 'n' Cor-
nelius; 'n' Sarah Maud, you take Clem, 'n' Eily, 'n'
Larry, one to a time. Scrub 'em 'n' rinse 'em, or
't any rate git 's fur's yer can with 'em, and then
I'11 finish 'em off while you do yerself."
Sarah Maud could n't have scrubbed with any
more decision and force if she had been doing
floors, and the little Ruggleses bore it bravely, not
from natural heroism, but for the joy that was set
before them. Not being satisfied, however, with
the "tone of their complexions, and feeling that
the number of freckles to the square inch was too
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 87
many to be tolerated in the highest social circles,
she wound up operations by applying a little Bris-
tol brick from the knife-board, which served as the
proverbial "last straw," from under which the
little Ruggleses issued rather red and raw and out
of temper. When the clock struck four they were
all clothed, and most of them in their right minds,
ready for those last touches that always take the
Kitty's red hair was curled in thirty-four ringlets,
Sarah Maud's was braided in one pig-tail, and
Susan's and Eily's in two braids apiece, while Peo-
ria's resisted all advances in the shape of hair oils
and stuck out straight on all sides, like that of the
Circassian girl of the circus so Clem said; and
he was sent intq the bedroom for it, too, from
whence he was dragged out forgivingly, by Peoria
herself, five minutes later. Then, exciting moment,
came linen collars for some and neckties and bows
for others, a magnificent green glass breastpin
was sewed into Peter's purple necktie, and Eu-
reka! the Ruggleses were dressed, and Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these!
A row of seats was then formed directly through
the middle of the kitchen. Of course, there were
not quite chairs enough for ten, since the family
88 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
had rarely wanted to sit down all at once, some
body always being out or in bed, or otherwise en-
gaged, but the wood-box and the coal-hod finished
out the line nicely, and nobody thought of grum-
bling. The children took their places according to
age, Sarah Maud at the head and Larry on the
coal-hod, and Mrs. Ruggles seated herself in front,
surveying them proudly as she wiped the sweat of
honest toil from her brow.
"Well," she exclaimed, "if I do say so as
should n't, I never see a cleaner, more stylish mess
o' childern in my life! I do wish Ruggles could
look at ye for a minute !-Larry Ruggles, how
many times have I got ter tell yer not ter keep
pullin' at yer sash ? Have n't I told yer if it comes
ontied, yer waist 'n' skirt 'll part company in the
middle, 'n' then where 'll yer be ? Now look me
in the eye, all of yer I've of'en told yer what
kind of a family the McGrills was. I've got reason
to be proud, goodness knows Your uncle is on
the police force o' New York city; you can take
up the paper most any day an' see his name printed
right out James McGrill, -'n' I can't have my
children fetched up common, like some folks'; when
they go out they 've got to have clo'es, and learn to
act decent! Now I want ter see how yer goin' to
k.*i, .,: f/ I '
"I WANT TE SE HOW Y GO'TO BAV"
..P ,. ---- - L II'. : "
"I WANT TER SEE ROW flt GOJJ TO B.kiVE "
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 41
behave when yer git there to-night. 'T ain't so aw-
ful easy as you think 't is. Let's start in at the
beginning' 'n' act out the whole business. Pile into
the bedroom, there, every last one o' ye, 'n' show
me how yer goin' to go int' the parlor. This '11 be
the parlor, 'n' I'11 be Mis' Bird."
The youngsters hustled into the next room in
high glee, and Mrs. Ruggles drew herself up in the
chair with an infinitely haughty and purse-proud
expression that much better suited a descendant of
the McGrills than modest Mrs. Bird.
The bedroom was small, and there presently en-
sued such a clatter that you would have thought a
herd of wild cattle had broken loose. The door
opened, and they straggled in, all the younger ones
giggling, with Sarah Maud at the head, looking as
if she had been caught in the act of stealing sheep;
while Larry, being last in line, seemed to think the
door a sort of gate of heaven which would be shut
in his face if he did n't get there in time ; accord-
ingly he struggled ahead of his elders and disgraced
himself by tumbling in head foremost.
Mrs. Ruggles looked severe. There, I knew
yer'd do it in some sech fool way Now go in
there and try it over again, every last one o' ye, 'n'
if Larry can't come in on two legs he can stay ter
home, d' yer hear ?"
42 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
The matter began to assume a graver aspect; the
little Ruggleses stopped giggling and backed into
the bedroom, issuing presently with lock step, In-
dian file, a scared and hunted expression on every
"No, no, no!" cried Mrs. Ruggles, in despair.
"That's worse yet; yer look for all the world like
a gang o' prisoners There ain't no style ter that:
spread out more, can't yer, 'n' act kind o' careless-
like nobody's goin' ter kill ye That ain't what
a dinner-party is "
The third time brought deserved success, and
the pupils took their seats in the row. "Now, yer
know," said Mrs. Ruggles impressively, "there ain't
enough decent hats to go round, 'n' if there was I
don' know's I'd let yer wear 'em, for the boys
would never think to take 'em off when they got
inside, for they never do but anyhow, there ain't
enough good ones. Now, look me in the eye.
You're only goin' jest round the corner; you
need nt wear no hats, none of yer, 'n' when yer
get int' the parlor, 'n' they ask yer ter lay off yer
hats, Sarah Maud must speak up 'n' say it was sech
a pleasant evening' 'n' sech a short walk that yer
left yer hats to home. Now, can yer remember?"
All the little Ruggleses shouted, Yes, marm I "
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 43
What have you got ter do with it?" demanded
their mother; "did I tell you to say it ? Warn't I
talking' ter Sarah Maud?"
The little Ruggleses hung their diminished heads.
"Yes, marm," they piped, more discreetly.
"Now we won't leave nothing' to chance; git up,
all of ye, an' try it. Speak up, Sarah Maud."
Sarah Maud's tongue clove to the roof of her
"Ma thought it was sech a pleasant hat that
we 'd we 'd better leave our short walk to home,"
recited Sarah Maud, in an agony of mental effort.
This was too much for the boys. An earthquake
of suppressed giggles swept all along the line.
"Oh, whatever shall I do with yer ? moaned the
unhappy mother; "I s'pose I've got to learn it to
yer which she did, word for word, until Sarah
Maud thought she could stand on her head and say
"Now, Cornelius, what are you goin' ter say ter
make herself good company ?"
Do? Me ? Dunno said Cornelius, turning
pale, with unexpected responsibility.
Well, ye ain't goin' to set there like a bump on
a log 'thout sayin' a word ter pay for yer vittles, air
44 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
ye ? Ask Mis' Bird how she's feeling' this evening ,
or if Mr. Bird's hevin' a busy season, or how this
kind o' weather agrees with him, or something' like
that. -Now we'll make believe we've got ter the
dinner that won't be so hard, 'cause yer'll have
something' to do it's awful bothersome to stan'
round an' act stylish. If they have napkins, Sarah
Maud down to Peory may put 'em in their laps, 'n'
the rest of ye can tuck 'em in yer necks. Don't
eat with yer fingers don't grab no vittles off one
another'ss plates; don't reach out for nothing but
wait till yer asked, 'n' if you never git asked don't
git up and grab it.- Don't spill nothing' on the
tablecloth, or like's not Mis' Bird '11 send yer away
from the table 'n' I hope she will if yer do!
(Susan! keep your handkerchief in your lap where
Peory can borry it if she needs it, 'n' I hope she'll
know when she does need it, though I don't expect
it.) Now we '11 try a few things ter see how they '11
go Mr. Clement, do you eat cramb'ry sarse ? "
"Bet yer life !" cried Clem, who in the excite-
ment of the moment had not taken in the idea
exactly and had mistaken this for an ordinary bo-
Clement McGrill Ruggles, do you mean to tell
me that you 'd say that to a dinner-party ? I'11 give
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 45
ye one more chance. Mr. Clement, will you take
some of the cramb'ry ?"
"Yes, marm, thank ye kindly, if you happen ter
have any handy."
Very good, indeed! But they won't give yer
two tries to-night, -yer just remember that! -
Miss Peory, do you speak for white or dark meat ? "
I ain't perticler as ter color, anything that
nobody else wants will suit me," answered Peory
with her best air.
"First-rate! Nobody could speak more genteel
than that. Miss Kitty, will you have hard or soft
sarse with your pudden ?"
"Hard or soft? Oh! A little of both, if you
please, an' I 'm much obliged," said Kitty, bowing
with decided ease and grace; at which all the other
Ruggleses pointed the finger of shame at her, and
Peter grunted expressively, that their meaning
might not be mistaken.
"You just stop your gruntin', Peter Ruggles;
that warn't greedy, that was all right. I wish I
could git it inter your heads that it ain't so much
what yer say, as the way you say it. And don't
keep starin' cross-eyed at your necktie pin, or I'11
take it out 'n' sew it on to Clem or Cornelius:
Sarah Maud '11 keep her eye on it, 'n' if it turns
46 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
broken side out she'll tell yer. Gracious! I
shouldn't think you'd ever seen nor worn no
jool'ry in your life. Eily, you an' Larry's too
little to train, so you just look at the rest an' do's
they do, 'n' the Lord have mercy on ye 'n' help ye
to act decent! Now, is there anything more ye'd
like to practice?"
If yer tell me one more thing, I can't set up
an' eat," said Peter gloomily; I'm so cram full o'
manners now I'm ready ter bust, 'thout no dinner
"Me too," chimed in Cornelius.
"Well, I'm sorry for yer both," rejoined Mrs.
Ruggles sarcastically; "if the 'mount o' manners
yer've got on hand now troubles ye, you're dread-
ful easy hurt! Now, Sarah Maud, after dinner,
about once in so often, you must git up 'n' say, 'I
guess we'd better be goin';' 'n' if they say, 'Oh,
no, set a while longer,' yer can set; but if they
don't say nothing' you've got ter get up 'n' go. -
Now hev yer got that int' yer head? "
"About once in so often! Could any words
in the language be fraught with more terrible and
wearing uncertainty ?
"Well," answered Sarah Maud mournfully,
"seems as if this whole dinner-party set right
SOME OTHER BIRDS ARE TAUGHT TO FLY 47
square on top o' me Mebbe I could manage my
own manners, but to manage nine mannerses is
worse 'n staying to home "
"Oh, don't fret," said her mother, good-na-
turedly, now that the lesson was over; "I guess
you'll git along. I would n't mind if folks would
only say, 'Oh, childern will be childern ;' but they
won't. They'll say, Land o' Goodness, who
fetched them childern up?'--It's quarter past
five, 'n' yer can go now: remember 'bout the
hats,- don't all talk ter once, Susan, lend yer
han'k'chief ter Peory, --Peter, don't keep screwin'
yer scarf-pin, Cornelius, hold yer head up
straight, Sarah Maud, don't take yer eyes off o'
Larry, 'n' Larry you keep holt o' Sarah Maud 'n'
do jest as she says,- 'n' whatever you do, all of
yer, never forget for one second that yer mother
was a McGrill."
WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED,
THE BIRDS BEGAN TO SING "
HE children went out of the back door
quietly, and were presently lost to
sight, Sarah Maud slipping and
stumbling along absent-mindedly, as
she recited rapidly under her breath,
Peter rang the door-bell, and presently a servant
admitted them, and, whispering something in Sa-
rah's ear, drew her downstairs into the kitchen.
The other Ruggleses stood in horror-stricken groups
as the door closed behind their commanding officer;
but there was no time for reflection, for a voice
from above was heard, saying, "Come right up-
stairs, please !"
WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED 49
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do or die."
Accordingly they walked upstairs, and Elfrida,
the nurse, ushered them into a room more splendid
than anything they had ever seen. But, oh woe!
where was Sarah Maud! and was it Fate that Mrs.
Bird should say, at once, Did you lay your hats
in the hall?" Peter felt himself elected by cir-
cumstance the head of the family, and, casting one
imploring look at tongue-tied Susan, standing next
him, said huskily, It was so very pleasant that
- that That we had n't good hats enough
to go 'round," put in little Susan, bravely, to help
him out, and then froze with horror that the ill-
fated words had slipped off her tongue.
However, Mrs. Bird said, pleasantly, Of course
you would n't wear hats such a short distance I
forgot when I asked. Now will you come right in
to Miss Carol's room? She is so anxious to see
Just then Sarah Maud came up the back stairs,
so radiant with joy from her secret interview with
the cook that Peter could have pinched her with a
clear conscience; and Carol gave them a joyful
welcome.' But where is Baby Larry ? she cried,
50 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
looking over the group with searching eye. Did n't
he come ?"
"Larry Larry Good gracious, where was
Larry? They were all sure that he had come in
with them, for Susan remembered scolding him for
tripping over the door-mat. Uncle Jack went into
convulsions of laughter. Are you sure there were
nine of you ?" he asked, merrily.
I think so, sir," said Peoria, timidly; "but
anyhow, there was Larry; and she showed signs
"Oh, well, cheer up !" cried Uncle Jack.
"Probably he's not lost only mislaid. I'11 go
and find him before you can say Jack Robinson "
I '11 go, too, if you please, sir," said Sarah Maud,
"for it was my place to mind him, an' if he's lost
I can't relish my vittles !"
The other Ruggleses stood rooted to the floor.
Was this a dinner-party, forsooth ; and if so, why
were such things ever spoken of as festive occa-
Sarah Maud went out through the hall, calling,
"Larry! Larry and without any interval of sus-
pense a thin voice piped up from below, Here I
The truth was that Larry, being deserted by his
WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED 51
natural guardian, dropped behind the rest, and wrig-
gled into the hat-tree to wait for her, having no no-
tion of walking unprotected into the jaws of a fash-
ionable entertainment. Finding that she did not
come, he tried to crawl from his refuge and call
somebody, when -dark and dreadful ending to a
tragic day he found that he was too much inter-
twined with umbrellas and canes to move a single
step. He was afraid to yell (when I have said
this of Larry Ruggles I have pictured a state of
helpless terror that ought to wring tears from every
eye); and the sound of Sarah Maud's beloved voice,
some seconds later, was like a strain of angel music
in his ears. Uncle Jack dried his tears, carried
him upstairs, and soon had him in breathless fits of
laughter, while Carol so made the other Ruggleses
forget themselves that they were presently talking
like accomplished diners-out.
,/ Carol's bed had been moved into the farthest cor-
ner of the room, and she was lying on the outside,
dressed in a wonderful dressing-gown that looked
like a fleecy cloud. Her golden hair fell in fluffy
curls over her white forehead and neck, her cheeks
flushed delicately, her eyes beamed with joy, and
the children told their mother, afterwards, that she
looked as beautiful as the angels in the picture
52 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
There was a great bustle behind a huge screen in
another part of the room, and at half past five this
was taken away, and the Christmas dinner-table
stood revealed. What a wonderful sight it was to
the poor little Ruggles children, who ate their some-
times scanty meals on the kitchen table! It blazed
with tall colored candles, it gleamed with glass and
silver, it blushed with flowers, it groaned with good
things to eat; so it was not strange that the Rug-
gleses, forgetting altogether that their mother was
a McGrill, shrieked in admiration of the fairy spec-
tacle. But Larry's behavior was the most disgrace-
ful, for he stood not upon the order of his going,
but went at once for a high chair that pointed un-
mistakably to him, climbed up like a squirrel, gave
a comprehensive look at the turkey, clapped his
hands in ecstasy, rested his fat arms on the table,
and cried with joy, "I beat the hull lot o' yer 1 "
Carol laughed until she cried, giving orders,
meanwhile, Uncle Jack, please sit at the head,
Sarah Maud at the foot, and that will leave four on
each side; Mamma is going to help Elfrida, so that
the children need not look after each other, but
just have a good time.'"
A sprig of holly lay by each plate, and nothing
would do but each little Ruggles must leave his
WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED 53
seat and have it pinned on by Carol, and as each
course was served, one of them pleaded to take
something to her. There was hurrying to and fro,
I can assure you, for it is quite a difficult matter to
serve a Christmas dinner on the third floor of a
great city house; but if it had been necessary to
carry every dish up a rope ladder the servants
would gladly have done so. (There were turkey
and chicken, with delicious gravy and stuffing, and
there were half a dozen vegetables, with cranberry
jelly, and celery, and pickles; and as for the way
these delicacies were served, the Ruggleses never
forgot it as long as they lived.
Peter nudged Kitty, who sat next him, and said,
"Look, will yer, ev'ry feller 's got his own particular
butter; I s'pose that's to show you can eat that 'n'
no more. No, it ain't either, for that pig of a
Peory's just getting' another helping' 1 "
"Yes," whispered Kitty, "an' the napkins is
marked with big red letters! I wonder if that's so
nobody 'll nip 'em; an' oh, Peter, look at the pic-
tures stickin' right on ter the dishes Did yer
The plums is all took out o' my cramb'ry sarse
an' it's friz to a stiff jell' I whispered Peoria, in
54 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
Hi yah I got a wish-bone 1 sang Larry,
regardless of Sarah Maud's frown; after which she
asked to have his seat changed, giving as excuse
that he "gen'ally set beside her, an' would feel
strange; the true reason being that she desired tc
kick him gently, under the table, whenever h(
passed what might be termed "the McGrill line."
I declare to goodness," murmured Susan, on
the other side, "there's so much to look at I can't
scarcely eat nothing' !"
Bet yer life I can said Peter, who had kept
one servant busily employed ever since he sat down;
for, luckily, no one was asked by Uncle Jack
whether he would have a second helping, but the
dishes were quietly passed under their noses, and
not a single Ruggles refused anything that was
offered him, even unto the seventh time.
Then, when Carol and Uncle Jack perceived that
more turkey was a physical impossibility, the meats
were taken off and the dessert was brought in--
a dessert that would have frightened a strong man
after such a dinner as had preceded it. Not so the
Ruggleses for a strong man is nothing to a small
boy and they kindled to the dessert as if the tur-
key had been a dream and the six vegetables an
optical delusion. There were plum-pudding, mince-
' .'- ... .* ,A- "A.
7 -." '- I: l"- ,* .. '.
-. .-:_ .. .. ,10
"T' H RU-''".". NEV FOR''-
WHEN THE TPE WAS OPENED 57
pie, and ice-cream; and there were nuts, and raisins,
and oranges. Kitty chose ice-cream, explaining
that she knew it "by sight, though she had n't
never tasted none; but all the rest took the entire
variety, without any regard to consequences.
"My dear child," whispered Uncle Jack, as he
took Carol an orange, "there is no doubt about the
necessity of this feast, but I do advise you after this
to have them twice a year, or quarterly perhaps, for
the way these children eat is positively dangerous;
I assure you I tremble for that terrible Peoria.
I'm going to run races with her after dinner."
Never mind," laughed Carol; let them have
enough for once; it does my heart good to see
them, and they shall come oftener next year."
The feast being over, the Ruggleses lay back in
their chairs languidly, like little gorged boa-con-
strictors, and the table was cleared in a trice. Then
a door was opened into the next room, and there,
in a corner facing Carol's bed, which had been
wheeled as close as possible, stood the brilliantly
lighted Christmas tree, glittering with gilded wal-
nuts and tiny silver balloons, and wreathed with
snowy chains of pop-corn.' The presents had been
bought mostly with Carol's story-money, and were
selected after long consultations with Mrs. Bird,
58 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
Each girl had a blue knitted hood, and each boy a
red crocheted comforter, all made by Mamma, Carol,
and Elfrida. ( "Because if you buy everything, it
does n't show so much love," said Carol.) Then
every girl had a pretty plaid dress of a different
color, and every boy a warm coat of the right size.
Here the useful presents stopped, and they were
quite enough; but Carol had pleaded to give them
something "for fun." "I know they need the
clothes," she had said, when they were talking over
the matter just after Thanksgiving, but they don't
care much for them, after all. Now, Papa, won't
you please let me go without part of my presents
this year, and give me the money they would cost,
to buy something to amuse the Ruggleses ?"
"You can have both," said Mr. Bird, promptly;
"is there any need of my little girl's going without
her own Christmas, I should like to'know ? Spend
all the money you like."
But that is n't the thing," objected Carol, nes-
tling close to her father; "it wouldn't be mine.
What is the use? Haven't I almost everything al-
ready, and am I not the happiest girl in the world
this year, with Uncle Jack and Donald at home?
You know very well it is more blessed to give than
to receive; so why won't you let me do it? You
WHEN THE PIE WAS OPENED 59
never look half as happy when you are getting your
presents as when you are giving us ours. Now,
Papa, submit, or I shall have to be very firm and
disagreeable with you!"
"Very well, your Higlhness, I surrender."
"That's a dear Papa! Now what were you go-
ing to give me? Confess "
"A bronze figure of Santa Claus; and in the
'little round belly that shakes when he laughs like
a bowlful of jelly,' is a wonderful clock- oh, you
would never give it up if you could see it!"
"Nonsense," laughed Carol; "as I never have to
get up to breakfast, nor go to bed, nor catch trains,
I think my old clock will do very well! Now,
Mamma, what were you going to give me? "
Oh, I had n't decided. A few more books, and
a gold thimble, and a smelling-bottle, and a music-
"Poor Carol," laughed the child, merrily, she
can afford to give up these lovely things, for there
will still be left Uncle Jack, and Donald, and Paul,
and Hugh, and Uncle Rob, and Aunt Elsie, and a
dozen other people to fill her Christmas stocking! "
So Carol had her way, as she generally did; but
it was usually a good way, which was fortunate,
under the circumstances and Sarah Maud had a set
60 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
of Miss Alcott's books, and Peter a modest silver
watch, Cornelius a tool-chest, Clement a dog-house
for his lame puppy, Larry a magnificent Noah's
ark, and each of the younger girls a beautiful doll.
You can well believe that everybody was very
merry and very thankful. All the family, from Mr.
Bird down to the cook, said that they had never
seen so much happiness in the space of three hours;
but it had to end, as all things do. The candles
flickered and went out, the tree was left alone with
its gilded ornaments, and Mrs. Bird sent the chil-
dren downstairs at half past eight, thinking that
Carol looked tired.
"Now, my darling, you have done quite enough
for one day," said Mrs. Bird, getting Carol into her
little nightgown. "I'm afraid you will feel worse
to-morrow, and that would be a sad ending to such
a charming evening."
"Oh, was n't it a lovely, lovely time," sighed
Carol. "From first to last, everything was just
right. I shall never forget Larry's face when he
looked at the turkey; nor Peter's when he saw his
watch; nor that sweet, sweet Kitty's smile when she
kissed her dolly; nor the tears in poor, dull Sarah
Maud's eyes when she thanked me for her books;
WHEN TIE PIE WAS OPENED 61
But we must n't talk any longer about it to-
night," said Mrs. Bird, anxiously; "you are too
"I am not so very tired, Mamma. I have felt
well all day; not a bit of pain anywhere. Perhaps
this has done me good."
"Perhaps; I hope so. There was no noise or
confusion; it was just a merry time. Now, may I
close the door and leave you alone, dear? Papa
and I will steal in softly by and by to see if you
are all right; but I think you need to be very
"Oh, I'm willing to stay by myself; but I am
not sleepy yet, and I am going to hear the music,
"Yes, I have opened the window a little, and
put the screen in front of it, so that you won't feel
"Can I have the shutters open? and won't you
turn my bed, please? This morning I woke ever
so early, and one bright, beautiful star shone in
that eastern window. I never noticed it before,
and I thought of the Star in the East, that guided
the wise men to the place where the baby Jesus
was. Good-night, Mamma. Such a happy, happy
62 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
Good-night, my precious Christmas Carol-
mother's blessed Christmas child."
Bend your head a minute, mother dear," whis-
pered Carol, calling her mother back. Mamma,
dear, I do think that we have kept Christ's birthday
this time just as He would like it. Don't you?"
"I am sure of it," said Mrs. Bird, softly.
^ -' ...1A,
THE BIRDLING FLIES AWAY
B HE Ruggleses had finished a last romp
in the library with Paul and Hugh,
and Uncle Jack had taken them
home and stayed a while to chat
with Mrs. Ruggles, who opened the
door for them, her face all aglow with excitement
and delight.) When Kitty and Clem showed her
the oranges and nuts that they had kept for her,
she astonished them by saying that at six o'clock
Mrs. Bird had sent her in the finest dinner she had
ever seen in her life; and not only that, but a piece
of dress-goods that must have cost a dollar a yard
if it cost a cent.
As Uncle Jack went down the rickety steps he
looked back into the window for a last glimpse of
the family, as the children gathered about their
mother, showing their beautiful presents again and
again, and then upward to a window in the great
house yonder. A little child shall lead them," he
64 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
thought. Well, if if anything ever happens to
Carol, I will take the Ruggleses under my wing."
Softly, Uncle Jack," whispered the boys, as he
walked into the library a while later. We are
listening to the music in the church. The choir
has sung 'Carol, brothers, carol,' and now we think
the organist is beginning to play 'My ain countree'
"I hope she hears it," said Mrs. Bird; "but
they are very late to-night, and I dare not speak
to her lest she should be asleep. It is almost ten
The boy soprano, clad in white surplice, stood in
the organ loft. The light shone full upon his
crown of fair hair, and his pale face, with its seri-
ous blue eyes, looked paler than usual. Perhaps it
was something in the tender, thrill of the voice, or in
the sweet words, but there were tears in many eyes,
both in the church and in the great house next
"I am far frae my hame,
I am weary aften whiles
For the langed-for hame-bringin',
An' thy Faether's welcome smiles;
An' I '11 ne'er be fu' content,
Until my e'en do see
12.~~~~ .I+ 3;..+" + ,+ ,
I ,'-. a .,,p, ;Io ~ n
r,L +'" .... :,"
*r II '
"M' AC T
,I :,; i n ,
"MY .IN COUNTREE"
THE BIRDLING FLIES AWAY 67
The gowden gates o' heaven
In my ain countree.
"The earth is decked wi' flow'rs,
Mony tinted, fresh an' gay,
An' the birdies warble blythely,
For my Faether made them sae;
But these sights an' these soun's
Will as naething be to me,
When I hear the angels singing'
In my ain countree.
Like a bairn to its mither,
A wee birdie to its nest,
I fain would be gangin' noo
Unto my Faether's breast;
For He gathers in His arms
Helpless, worthless lambs like me,
An' carries them Himsel'
To his ain countree."
There were tears in many eyes, but not in Carol's.
The loving heart had quietly ceased to beat, and the
" wee birdie" in the great house had flown to its
" home nest." Carol had fallen asleep But as to
the song, I think perhaps, I cannot say, she heard
it after all!
So sad an ending to a happy day Perhaps to
those who were left; and yet Carol's mother, even
68 THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL
in the freshness of her grief, was glad that her
darling had slipped away on the loveliest day of
her life, out of its glad content, into everlasting
She was glad that she had gone as she had come,
on the wings of song, when all the world was brim-
ming over with joy; glad of every grateful smile,
of every joyous burst of laughter, of every loving
thought and word and deed the dear last day had
Sadness reigned, it is true, in the little house be-
hind the garden; and one day poor Sarah Maud,
with a courage born of despair, threw on her hood
and shawl, walked straight to a certain house a
mile away, up the marble steps into good Dr. Bar-
tol's office, falling at his feet as she cried, Oh, sir,
it was me an' our children that went to Miss Carol's
last dinner-party, an' if we made her worse we can't
never be happy again Then the kind old gentle-
man took her rough hand in his and told her to dry
her tears, for neither she nor any of her flock had
hastened Carol's flight; indeed, he said that had
it not been for the strong hopes and wishes that
filled her tired heart, she could not have stayed
long enough to keep that last merry Christmas with
her dear ones.
THE BIRDLING FLIES AWAY 69
And so the old years, fraught with memories, die,
one after another, and the new years, bright with
hopes, are born to take their places; but Carol lives
again in every chime of Christmas bells that peal
glad tidings, and in every Christmas anthem sung
by childish voices.
S .. ,i ;;, .'1
-.. r ,
33p ]ate 7Dougla Wigfgin
THE STORY OF WAITSTILL BAXTER. Illustrated.
THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL. holiday Edition. Illus.
treated in color.
A CHILD'S JOURNEY WITH DICKENS. With frontispiece.
MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKENS. Illustrated.
REBECCA OF &UNNYBROOK FARM. Holiday Edition.
SUSANNA AND SUE. Illustrated.
THE OLD PEABODY PEW. With decorationsand illustrations.
REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM.
NEW CHRONICLES OF REBECCA. Illustrated.
ROSE O' THE RIVER. Illustrated in color.
THE AFFAIR AT THE INN. Illustrated.
THE DIARY OF A GOOSE GIRL. Illustrated.
A CATHEDRAL COURTSHIP, and PENELOPE'S ENG-
LISH EXPERIENCES. Illustrated.
PENELOPE'S IRISH EXPERIENCES.
PENELOPE'S EXPERIENCES. I. England; II. Scotland;
III. Ireland; HolidayEdition. With manyillustrationsby CHARLES
A CATHEDRAL COURTSHIP. Holiday Edition, enlarged.
Illustrated by C. E. BROCK.
THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS CAROL. Illustrated.
THE STORY OF PATSY. Illustrated.
A SUMMER IN A CARON. A California Story. Illustrated.
TIMOTHY'S QUEST. A Story for Anybody, Young or Old, who
cares to read t. Also Holiday Edition. Illustrated.
POLLY OLIVER'S PROBLEM. Illustrated.
THE VILLAGE WATCH-TOWER.
NINE LOVE SONGS, AND A CAROL. MusicbyMr.WI GGce.
Words by HERRICK, SILL, and others.
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
BOSTON AND NEW YORK.