IT was bright and beautiful all day,
and then, when no one could possibly
wait any longer, it was Christmas evening. The coal glowed in the grate with a
splendid blaze: all the gas-burners
were lighted, and so were everybody's
eyes. If one had listened, one might
have heard, from out of doors, a joyful
tinkling of sleigh-bells; yet I fancy nobody could have told whether the streets
were still or noisy, or whether the sky
had a moon in it or not; for nobody was
quiet long enough to notice.
But by and by, when the right time
had come, the folding-doors were
opened, just like the two covers to a
Christmas fairy book. Then, in a second, it was so still you might have
heard a pin drop.
Such a funny little old gentleman had
arrived: his face alive with dimples,
and smiles, and wrinkles. His cheeks
were as red and round as winter apples,
and where there wasn't a wrinkle there
was a dimple; and no doubt there was a
dimple in his chin, and his chin maybe
was double, only you couldn't tell, for it
was hidden ever so deep under a beard
as white as a snow-drift.
He walked along, tottering under the
weight of a huge pack full of presents.
He extended his small arms towards the
audience ' most affectionately, and you
could see that his antiquated coatsleeves were bristling with toys and
glistening with ornaments. His eyes
twinkled with fun, and his mouth, which
seemed nearly worn out with laughing,
grew bigger every minute.
It took the dear old gentleman some
time to clear his throat; but when he
had found his voice, which at first was
as fine as a knitting-needle, and all of a
tremble, he made
THE SPEECH OF SANTA CLAUS.
"How do, my darlings? How do, all
round? Bless your little hearts, how do
you all do? Did they tell ye Santa
wasn't a-comin', my dears? Did your
grandpas and grandmas say, 'Humph!
there isn't any such a person.' My love
to the good old people. I know they
mean all right; but tell them they'll
have to give it up now! ' '
(Here Santa Claus made a low bow.
Everybody laughed and clapped; but
Prudy whispered, "0, don't he look old
all over? What has he done. with his'
teeth? 0, dear, has anybody pulled
"Yes, my dears," continued the old
'gentleman, encouraged by the applause,
—"yes, my dears, here I am, as jolly as
ever! But bless your sweet little
hearts, I've had a terrible time getting
here! The wind has been blowin' me up
as fierce as yon please, and I've been
shook round as if I wasn't of more account than a kernel of corn in a popper!
"0,0, I've been ducked up to the
chin in some awful deep snow-drifts, up
there by the North Pole! This is the
very first time the storms have come so
heavy as to cover over the end of the
North Pole! But this year they had to
dig three days before they could find
it. 0, ho !
"I was a-wanderin' round all last
night; a real shivery night, too! Got so
broke up, there's nothing left of me but
small pieces. 0, hum!
"Such a time as I had in some of
those chimneys, you haven't any idee!
Why, if you'll believe me, over there in
Iceland somebody forgot to clear out
the chimney, and there I stuck fast, like
a fish-bone in your throat; couldn't be
picked out, couldn't be swallowed!
" The funniest time that was! How I
laughed! And then the children's
mother woke up, and, '0 dear,' said she;
'hear the wind sigh down the chimney!'
'Only me,' says I; 'and I've caught you
napping this time! ' She helped me out,
and when I had caught my breath, I
climbed out the window; but, deary me,
I shouldn't wonder if that very woman
went to sleep again, and thought it was
all a dream! Heigh-ho! that's the way
they always treat poor Santa Claus
(Here the children laughed, and Susy
said, "I guess he must have bumped his
nose against that chimney: see what a
"0, 0, don't you make sport of me,
children! My nose is big, to be sure,
but I'm going to keep it and make the
best of it! If you loved Santa as he
loves you, you wouldn't mind the looks.
I was going to change my coat and
dickey; but then, thinks I, I'll come just
as I am! I patted myself on the shoulder, and says I, 'Santa Claus, don't you
fret if you are growin' old! You may
look a little dried up, but your heart
isn't wrinkled; 0, no!' You see father
Adam and me was very near of an age,
but somehow I never growed up! I always thought big folks did very well in
their place; but for my part, give me the
children. Hurrah for the children!"
(Great clapping and laughing.)
"I tell you, darlings, I haven't forgot
a single one of you. My pockets are
running over. I've been preparing presents for you ever since last fall, when
the birds broke up housekeeping.
"Here's a tippet for the Prudy girl,
and she may have it for nothing; and
they are cheaper 'n that, if you take 'em
by the quantity.
"I'm a walkin' book-case. Why, I've
brought stories and histories enough to
set up a store! I've got more nuts than
you can shake a hammer at; but I think
there's more bark to 'em than there is
bite. 0, 0, I find I can't crack 'em with
my teeth, as I used to a hundred years
"But my dear, sweet, cunning little
hearers, I must be a-goin'. Queen Victoria, said she to me, said she, 'Now, Santa, my love, do you hurry back to fill
my children's stockings before the clock
strikes twelve.' Queen Vic is an excellent woman, and is left a poor widow;
so I can't disappoint her, poor soul!
"I must be a-goin'! Would like to
hug and kiss you all round, but can't
stop. (Kisses his hand and bows.) A
Merry Christmas to you all, and a
Happy New Year."
So saying, Santa Claus suddenly disappeared at the hall door, dropping his
heavy pack upon the table.
In another minute the lively old gentleman was in the front parlor without
any mask, and of course it was nobody
but cousin Percy, "with his face off."
Then they all fell to work sorting out
presents. Prudy seized her fur tippet,
and put it on at once.
"0, how pretty I look," said she;
"just like a little cat! Ain't I cunning?"
But nobody could pause to attend to
Prudy, though she chatted very fast,
without commas or periods, and held up
to view a large wax doll which "would be
alive if it could talk." They all had
gifts as well as Prudy, and wished to
talk rather than to listen. They asked
questions without waiting for answers,
and did not mind interrupting one another, and talking all at once, like a
party of school children.
All this was hardly polite, it is true;
but people are sometimes surprised out
of their good manners on Christmas
evenings, and must be forgiven for it,
as such a good time happens but once a
Percy broke in with an old song, and
went through with a whole stanza of it,
although no one listened to a word:—
"Good luck unto old Christmas,
And long life let us sing,
For he doeth more good unto the poor
Than many a crowned king."
"My beautiful books!" cried aunt
Madge; "Russia morocco."
"My writing-desk, — has any one
looked at it?" said Mrs. Parlin; "rosewood, inlaid with brass."
"My skates!" broke in Susy, at the
top of her voice.
"Hush!" screamed cousin Percy;—
"won't anybody please notice my
drum? If you won't look, then look out
for a drum in each ear?"
And, as nobody would look or pay
the slightest attention, they all had to
hear "Dixie" pounded out in true martial style, till they held on to their ears.
"Battlety bang!" went the drum.
"Tweet, tweet," whistled the little musical instruments which the children
"Have pity on us!" cried aunt
Madge; "I am bewildered; my head is
floating like a Chinese garden."
"Order!" shouted Mr. Parlin, laughing.
"0, yes, sir," said Percy, seizing
Susy and whirling her round. "Children, why don't you try to preserve order ? My nerves are strung up like violin-strings! I've got a pound of headache to every ounce of brains. Susy
Parlin, do try to keep still!"
"Thee needn't pretend it is all Susan," said grandma Bead, smiling.
"Thee and little Prudence are the noisiest of the whole!"
In fact, they raised such a din, that
after a while poor grandma Read
smoothed the Quaker cap over her smiling face, and stole off into her own
chamber, where she could "settle down
into quietness." Much noise always
confused grandma Read.
But in a very few moments, when the
excitement began to die out, there was
a season of overwhelming gratitude.
Everybody had to thank everybody
else; and Mr. Parlin, who had a beautiful dressing-gown to be grateful for,
nevertheless found time to tell Susy,
over and over again, how delighted he
was with her book-mark, made, by her
own fingers, of three wide strips of velvet ribbon; on the ends of which were
fastened a cross, a star, and an anchor,
"Papa, one ribbon is to keep your
place in the Old Testament," said Susy;
"one is to stay in the middle, at the
births and marriages; and the other one
is for our chapter in the New Testament, you know."
"I think my lamp-mat is very
pretty," said aunt Madge, kissing Susy;
"every bit as pretty as if Prudy hadn't
"been and told.' "
Prudy had bought a shawl-pin for her
mother, a fierce little wooden soldier for
aunt Madge, and something for everybody else but Susy. Not that she forgot
Susy. 0, no! but one's money does not
always hold out, even at Christmas
"Why," said Mr. Parlin, "what is
this sticking fast to the sole of my new
slipper ? Molasses candy, I do believe."
"Yes, sir; that's for Susy," cried
Prudy, suddenly remembering how she
had tucked it in at the last moment,
when she could not stop to find any
wrapping-paper. "It isn't so big as it
was, but it's the biggest piece I had in
this world. I saved it last night. Susy
likes 'lasses candy, and I couldn't think
of nothin' else."
It was a wonder that Prudy's candy
had not spoiled some of the nice presents.
Susy received several pretty things;
and though she did not talk quite so
much as Prudy, she was just as happy.
For one thing, she had what she had not
dreamed was possible for a little girl—
a bottle of otto of rose; "just like a
young lady. "
This was a real delight to Susy; but
Prudy, sniffing at it, said, coolly, "0„
ho! it smell's if it didn't cost more'n a
cent! "Tisn't half so sweet as pepmint!"
Before Dotty could be put to bed, she
had contrived to break several toys, all
of which happened to be Susy's—a
sugar temple, a glass pitcher, and a
This was an evening long to be remembered ; but the most remarkable event of
all was to come.
"Susy, my daughter," said Mr. Parlin, "have you been wondering why yon
don't see a present from me?"
Susy blushed. She had certainly expected something handsome this year
from her father.
"I haven't forgotten you my dear;
but the present I have chosen wouldn't
sit very well on the shoulders of such a
little fellow as Santa Claus."
Percy laughed. "Wouldn't it have
been a load uncle?"
"Hush!" whispered aunt Madge;
"she isn't to know till morning."
"But papa" said Susy her eyes shining with excitement "why couldn't you
bring it in here now?"
"It is better off out of doors. Indeed,
to tell the truth, my child, it is hardly
suitable for the parlor."
"Now Miss Susy," said Percy, measuring off his words on the tips of his
fingers, "I'm authorized to tell you it's
something yon mustn't take in your lap,
mustn't hang on a nail; if you do, you'll
lose it. I'm sure 'twill please you, Susy,
because it's a mute, and can't speak.
"0 hush talking about dumb people! I
shouldn't think you'd make sport of
Freddy Jackson. If you was a little
deaf-and-dumber than you are now, I'd
like you better!"
"0, dear, dear!" cried she, dancing
about the room; ' ' what can it be? I can't
"Only think; all night before I'll
know," thought she, as she touched her
pillow. "0, Prudy, to-morrow morning!
Only think of to-morrow morning! All
my other presents are just nothing at all.
Anything is so much nicer when you
don't know what it is!"
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