and How it Came
"I'm so tired of Christmas I wish there never
would be another one!" exclaimed a
discontented-looking little girl, as she sat idly
watching her mother arrange a pile of gifts two
days before they were to be given.
"Why, Effie, what a dreadful thing to say!
You are as bad as old Scrooge; and I 'm afraid
something will happen to you, as it did to him,
if you don't care for dear Christmas," answered
mamma, almost dropping the silver horn she
was filling with delicious candies.
"Who was Scrooge? What happened to
him?" asked Effie, with a glimmer of interest
in her listless face, as she picked out the sourest
lemon-drop she could find; for nothing sweet
suited her just then.
"He was one of Dickens's best people, and
you can read the charming story some day.
He hated Christmas until a strange dream
showed him how dear and beautiful it was, and
made a better man of him."
"I shall read it; for I like dreams, and have
a great many curious ones myself. But they
don't keep me from being tired of Christmas,"
said Effie, poking discontentedly among the
sweeties for something worth eating.
"Why are you tired of what should be the
happiest time of all the year?" asked mamma,
"Perhaps I should n't be if I had something
new. But it is always the same, and there is n't
any more surprise about it. I always find heaps
of goodies in my stocking. Don't like some of
them, and soon get tired of those I do like.
We always have a great dinner, and I eat too
much, and feel ill next day. Then there is a
Christmas tree somewhere, with a doll on top,
or a stupid old Santa Claus, and children
dancing and screaming over bonbons and toys that
break, and shiny things that are of no use.
Really, mamma, I 've had so many Christmases
all alike that I don't think I can bear another
one." And Effie laid herself flat on the sofa, as
if the mere idea was too much for her.
Her mother laughed at her despair, but was
sorry to see her little girl so discontented, when
she had everything to make her happy, and had
known but ten Christmas days.
"Suppose we don't give you any presents at
all,--how would that suit you?" asked mamma,
anxious to please her spoiled child.
"I should like one large and splendid one,
and one dear little one, to remember some very
nice person by," said Effie, who was a fanciful
little body, full of odd whims and notions,
which her friends loved to gratify, regardless of
time, trouble, or money; for she was the last of
three little girls, and very dear to all the family.
"Well, my darling, I will see what I can do
to please you, and not say a word until all
is ready. If I could only get a new idea
to start with!" And mamma went on tying up
her pretty bundles with a thoughtful face, while
Effie strolled to the window to watch the rain
that kept her in-doors and made her dismal.
"Seems to me poor children have better times
than rich ones. I can't go out, and there is a
girl about my age splashing along, without any
maid to fuss about rubbers and cloaks and
umbrellas and colds. I wish I was a beggar-girl."
"Would you like to be hungry, cold, and
ragged, to beg all day, and sleep on an ash-heap
at night?" asked mamma, wondering what would
"Cinderella did, and had a nice time in the
end. This girl out here has a basket of scraps
on her arm, and a big old shawl all round her,
and does n't seem to care a bit, though the
water runs out of the toes of her boots. She
goes paddling along, laughing at the rain, and
eating a cold potato as if it tasted nicer than
the chicken and ice-cream I had for dinner.
Yes, I do think poor children are happier than
"So do I, sometimes. At the Orphan Asylum
to-day I saw two dozen merry little souls
who have no parents, no home, and no hope of
Christmas beyond a stick of candy or a cake.
I wish you had been there to see how happy
they were, playing with the old toys some richer
children had sent them."
"You may give them all mine; I 'm so tired
of them I never want to see them again," said
Effie, turning from the window to the pretty
baby-house full of everything a child's heart
"I will, and let you begin again with something
you will not tire of, if I can only find it." And
mamma knit her brows trying to discover
some grand surprise for this child who did n't
care for Christmas.
Nothing more was said then; and wandering
off to the library, Effie found "A Christmas
Carol," and curling herself up in the sofa corner,
it all before tea. Some of it she did not
understand; but she laughed and cried over many
parts of the charming story, and felt better
without knowing why.
All the evening she thought of poor Tiny
Tim, Mrs. Cratchit with the pudding, and the
stout old gentleman who danced so gayly that
"his legs twinkled in the air." Presently
"Come, now, and toast your feet," said Effie's
nurse, "while I do your pretty hair and tell
"I 'll have a fairy tale to-night, a very
interesting one," commanded Effie, as she put on her
blue silk wrapper and little fur-lined slippers
to sit before the fire and have her long curls brushed.
So Nursey told her best tales; and when at
last the child lay down under her lace curtains,
her head was full of a curious jumble of
Christmas elves, poor children, snow-storms,
sugar-plums, and surprises. So it is no wonder that
she dreamed all night; and this was the dream,
which she never quite forgot.
She found herself sitting on a stone, in the
middle of a great field, all alone. The snow was
falling fast, a bitter wind whistled by, and night
was coming on. She felt hungry, cold, and
tired, and did not know where to go nor what to do.
"I wanted to be a beggar-girl, and now I am
one; but I don't like it, and wish somebody
would come and take care of me. I don't know
who I am, and I think I must be lost," thought
Effie, with the curious interest one takes in one's
self in dreams.
But the more she thought about it, the more
bewildered she felt. Faster fell the snow, colder
blew the wind, darker grew the night; and poor
Effie made up her mind that she was quite
forgotten and left to freeze alone. The tears were
chilled on her cheeks, her feet felt like icicles,
and her heart died within her, so hungry,
frightened, and forlorn was she. Laying her head
on her knees, she gave herself up for lost, and
sat there with the great flakes fast turning her to
a little white mound, when suddenly the sound
of music reached her, and starting up, she looked
and listened with all her eyes and ears.
Far away a dim light shone, and a voice was
heard singing. She tried to run toward the
welcome glimmer, but could not stir, and stood
like a small statue of expectation while the light
drew nearer, and the sweet words of the song
From our happy home
Through the world we roam
One week in all the year,
Making winter spring
With the joy we bring,
For Christmas-tide is here.
Now the eastern star
Shines from afar
To light the poorest home;
Hearts warmer grow,
Gifts freely flow,
For Christmas-tide has come.
Now gay trees rise
Before young eyes,
Abloom with tempting cheer;
Blithe voices sing,
And blithe bells ring,
For Christmas-tide is here.
Oh, happy chime,
Oh, blessed time,
That draws us all so near!
"Welcome, dear day,"
All creatures say,
For Christmas-tide is here.
A child's voice sang, a child's hand carried
the little candle; and in the circle of soft light
it shed, Effie saw a pretty child coming to her
through the night and snow. A rosy, smiling
creature, wrapped in white fur, with a wreath
of green and scarlet holly on its shining hair,
the magic candle in one hand, and the other
outstretched as if to shower gifts and warmly
press all other hands.
Effie forgot to speak as this bright vision
came nearer, leaving no trace of footsteps in the
snow, only lighting the way with its little candle,
and filling the air with the music of its song.
"Dear child, you are lost, and I have come
to find you," said the stranger, taking Effie's
cold hands in his, with a smile like sunshine,
while every holly berry glowed like a little fire.
"Do you know me?" asked Effie, feeling no
fear, but a great gladness, at his coming.
"I know all children, and go to find them;
for this is my holiday, and I gather them from
all parts of the world to be merry with me once
"Are you an angel?" asked Effie, looking
for the wings.
"No; I am a Christmas spirit, and live with
my mates in a pleasant place, getting ready
for our holiday, when we are let out to roam
about the world, helping make this a happy time
for all who will let us in. Will you come and
see how we work?"
"I will go anywhere with you. Don't leave
me again," cried Effie, gladly.
"First I will make you comfortable. That
is what we love to do. You are cold, and you
shall be warm; hungry, and I will feed you;
sorrowful, and I will make you gay."
With a wave of his candle all three miracles
were wrought,--for the snow-flakes turned to
a white fur cloak and hood on Effie's head and
shoulders; a bowl of hot soup came sailing to
her lips, and vanished when she had eagerly
drunk the last drop; and suddenly the dismal
field changed to a new world so full of wonders
that all her troubles were forgotten in a minute.
Bells were ringing so merrily that it was hard
to keep from dancing. Green garlands hung
on the walls, and every tree was a Christmas tree
full of toys, and blazing with candles that never
In one place many little spirits sewed like mad
on warm clothes, turning off work faster than
any sewing-machine ever invented, and great
piles were made ready to be sent to poor people.
Other busy creatures packed money into purses,
and wrote checks which they sent flying away
on the wind,--a lovely kind of snow-storm to
fall into a world below full of poverty.
Older and graver spirits were looking over
piles of little books, in which the records of
the past year were kept, telling how different
people had spent it, and what sort of gifts
they deserved. Some got peace, some
disappointment, some remorse and sorrow, some great
joy and hope. The rich had generous thoughts
sent them; the poor, gratitude and contentment.
Children had more love and duty to parents;
and parents renewed patience, wisdom, and
satisfaction for and in their children. No one was
"Please tell me what splendid place this is?"
asked Effie, as soon as she could collect her
wits after the first look at all these astonishing
"This is the Christmas world; and here we
work all the year round, never tired of getting
ready for the happy day. See, these are the
saints just setting off; for some have far to go,
and the children must not be disappointed."
As he spoke the spirit pointed to four gates,
out of which four great sleighs were just driving,
laden with toys, while a jolly old Santa Claus sat
in the middle of each, drawing on his mittens and
tucking up his wraps for a long cold drive.
"Why, I thought there was only one Santa
Claus, and even he was a humbug," cried Effie,
astonished at the sight.
"Never give up your faith in the sweet old
stories, even after you come to see that they are
only the pleasant shadow of a lovely truth."
Just then the sleighs went off with a great
jingling of bells and pattering of reindeer hoofs,
while all the spirits gave a cheer that was heard
in the lower world, where people said, "Hear
the stars sing."
"I never will say there isn't any Santa Claus
again. Now, show me more."
"You will like to see this place, I think, and
may learn something here perhaps."
The spirit smiled as he led the way to a
little door, through which Effie peeped into a
world of dolls. Baby-houses were in full blast,
with dolls of all sorts going on like live
people. Waxen ladies sat in their parlors elegantly
dressed; black dolls cooked in the kitchens;
nurses walked out with the bits of dollies; and
the streets were full of tin soldiers marching,
wooden horses prancing, express wagons rumbling,
and little men hurrying to and fro. Shops
were there, and tiny people buying legs of
mutton, pounds of tea, mites of clothes, and
everything dolls use or wear or want.
But presently she saw that in some ways the
dolls improved upon the manners and customs
of human beings, and she watched eagerly to
learn why they did these things. A fine Paris
doll driving in her carriage took up a black
worsted Dinah who was hobbling along with a
basket of clean clothes, and carried her to her
journey's end, as if it were the proper thing to
do. Another interesting china lady took off
her comfortable red cloak and put it round a
poor wooden creature done up in a paper shift,
and so badly painted that its face would have
sent some babies into fits.
"Seems to me I once knew a rich girl who
didn't give her things to poor girls. I wish I
could remember who she was, and tell her to
be as kind as that china doll," said Effie, much
touched at the sweet way the pretty creature
wrapped up the poor fright, and then ran off in
her little gray gown to buy a shiny fowl stuck on a
wooden platter for her invalid mother's dinner.
"We recall these things to people's minds by
dreams. I think the girl you speak of won't
forget this one." And the spirit smiled, as if he
enjoyed some joke which she did not see.
A little bell rang as she looked, and away
scampered the children into the red-and-green
school-house with the roof that lifted up, so
one could see how nicely they sat at their desks
with mites of books, or drew on the inch-square
blackboards with crumbs of chalk.
"They know their lessons very well, and are as
still as mice. We make a great racket at our
school, and get bad marks every day. I shall
tell the girls they had better mind what they do,
or their dolls will be better scholars than they
are," said Effie, much impressed, as she peeped
in and saw no rod in the hand of the little
mistress, who looked up and shook her head at the
intruder, as if begging her to go away before the
order of the school was disturbed.
Effie retired at once, but could not resist one
look in at the window of a fine mansion, where
the family were at dinner, the children behaved
so well at table, and never grumbled a bit when
their mamma said they could not have any
"Now, show me something else," she said, as
they came again to the low door that led out of
"You have seen how we prepare for Christmas;
let me show you where we love best to
send our good and happy gifts," answered the
spirit, giving her his hand again.
"I know. I've seen ever so many," began
Effie, thinking of her own Christmases.
"No, you have never seen what I will show
you. Come away, and remember what you see
Like a flash that bright world vanished,
and Effie found herself in a part of the city
she had never seen before. It was far away
from the gayer places, where every store was
brilliant with lights and full of pretty things, and
every house wore a festival air, while people
hurried to and fro with merry greetings. It was
down among the dingy streets where the poor
lived, and where there was no making ready for Christmas.
Hungry women looked in at the shabby shops,
longing to buy meat and bread, but empty
pockets forbade. Tipsy men drank up their wages in
the bar-rooms; and in many cold dark chambers
little children huddled under the thin blankets,
trying to forget their misery in sleep.
No nice dinners filled the air with savory
smells, no gay trees dropped toys and bonbons
into eager hands, no little stockings hung in
rows beside the chimney-piece ready to be
filled, no happy sounds of music, gay voices,
and dancing feet were heard; and there were
no signs of Christmas anywhere.
"Don't they have any in this place?" asked
Effie, shivering, as she held fast the spirit's hand,
following where he led her.
"We come to bring it. Let me show you our
best workers." And the spirit pointed to some
sweet-faced men and women who came stealing
into the poor houses, working such beautiful
miracles that Effie could only stand and watch.
Some slipped money into the empty pockets,
and sent the happy mothers to buy all the
comforts they needed; others led the drunken men
out of temptation, and took them home to find
safer pleasures there. Fires were kindled on
cold hearths, tables spread as if by magic, and
warm clothes wrapped round shivering limbs.
Flowers suddenly bloomed in the chambers of
the sick; old people found themselves
remembered; sad hearts were consoled by a tender
word, and wicked ones softened by the story of
Him who forgave all sin.
But the sweetest work was for the children;
and Effie held her breath to watch these human
fairies hang up and fill the little stockings
without which a child's Christmas is not perfect,
putting in things that once she would have thought
very humble presents, but which now seemed
beautiful and precious because these poor babies
"That is so beautiful! I wish I could make
merry Christmases as these good people do, and
be loved and thanked as they are," said Effie,
softly, as she watched the busy men and women
do their work and steal away without thinking
of any reward but their own satisfaction.
"You can if you will. I have shown you the
way. Try it, and see how happy your own
holiday will be hereafter."
As he spoke, the spirit seemed to put his
arms about her, and vanished with a kiss.
"Oh, stay and show me more!" cried Effie,
trying to hold him fast.
"Darling, wake up, and tell me why you are
smiling in your sleep," said a voice in her ear;
and opening her eyes, there was mamma bending
over her, and morning sunshine streaming
into the room.
"Are they all gone? Did you hear the
bells? Was n't it splendid?" she asked, rubbing
her eyes, and looking about her for the pretty
child who was so real and sweet.
"You have been dreaming at a great rate,--talking
in your sleep, laughing, and clapping
your hands as if you were cheering some one.
Tell me what was so splendid," said mamma,
smoothing the tumbled hair and lifting up the
Then, while she was being dressed, Effie told
her dream, and Nursey thought it very
wonderful; but mamma smiled to see how curiously
things the child had thought, read, heard, and
seen through the day were mixed up in her sleep.
"The spirit said I could work lovely miracles
if I tried; but I don't know how to begin, for I
have no magic candle to make feasts appear,
and light up groves of Christmas trees, as he
did," said Effie, sorrowfully.
"Yes, you have. We will do it! we will do
it!" And clapping her hands, mamma suddenly
began to dance all over the room as if she had
lost her wits.
"How? how? You must tell me, mamma,"
cried Effie, dancing after her, and ready to
believe anything possible when she remembered
the adventures of the past night.
"I 've got it! I 've got it!--the new idea. A
splendid one, if I can only carry it out!" And
mamma waltzed the little girl round till her curls
flew wildly in the air, while Nursey laughed as
if she would die.
"Tell me! tell me!" shrieked Effie.
"No, no; it is a surprise,--a grand surprise
for Christmas day!" sung mamma, evidently
charmed with her happy thought. "Now, come
to breakfast; for we must work like bees if
we want to play spirits to-morrow. You and
Nursey will go out shopping, and get heaps
of things, while I arrange matters behind the
They were running downstairs as mamma
spoke, and Effie called out breathlessly,--
"It won't be a surprise; for I know you are
going to ask some poor children here, and have
a tree or something. It won't be like my
dream; for they had ever so many trees, and
more children than we can find anywhere."
"There will be no tree, no party, no dinner,
in this house at all, and no presents for you.
Won't that be a surprise?" And mamma laughed
at Effie's bewildered face.
"Do it. I shall like it, I think; and I won't
ask any questions, so it will all burst upon me
when the time comes," she said; and she ate her
breakfast thoughtfully, for this really would be
a new sort of Christmas.
All that morning Effie trotted after Nursey
in and out of shops, buying dozens of barking
dogs, woolly lambs, and squeaking birds; tiny
tea-sets, gay picture-books, mittens and hoods,
dolls and candy. Parcel after parcel was sent
home; but when Effie returned she saw no trace
of them, though she peeped everywhere.
Nursey chuckled, but would n't give a hint, and
went out again in the afternoon with a long list
of more things to buy; while Effie wandered
forlornly about the house, missing the usual
merry stir that went before the Christmas dinner
and the evening fun.
As for mamma, she was quite invisible all day,
and came in at night so tired that she could
only lie on the sofa to rest, smiling as if some
very pleasant thought made her happy in spite
"Is the surprise going on all right?" asked
Effie, anxiously; for it seemed an immense time
to wait till another evening came.
"Beautifully! better than I expected; for
several of my good friends are helping, or I could n't
have done it as I wish. I know you will like
it, dear, and long remember this new way of
making Christmas merry."
Mamma gave her a very tender kiss, and Effie
went to bed.
The next day was a very strange one; for
when she woke there was no stocking to
examine, no pile of gifts under her napkin, no one
said "Merry Christmas!" to her, and the dinner
was just as usual to her. Mamma vanished
again, and Nursey kept wiping her eyes and
saying: "The dear things! It's the prettiest
idea I ever heard of. No one but your blessed
ma could have done it."
"Do stop, Nursey, or I shall go crazy because
I don't know the secret!" cried Effie, more
than once; and she kept her eye on the clock,
for at seven in the evening the surprise was
to come off.
The longed-for hour arrived at last, and the
child was too excited to ask questions when
Nurse put on her cloak and hood, led her
to the carriage, and they drove away, leaving
their house the one dark and silent one in
"I feel like the girls in the fairy tales who are
led off to strange places and see fine things,"
said Effie, in a whisper, as they jingled through
the gay streets.
"Ah, my deary, it is like a fairy tale, I do
assure you, and you will see finer things than
most children will to-night. Steady, now, and
do just as I tell you, and don't say one word
whatever you see," answered Nursey, quite
quivering with excitement as she patted a large
box in her lap, and nodded and laughed with
They drove into a dark yard, and Effie was
led through a back door to a little room, where
Nurse coolly proceeded to take off not only her
cloak and hood, but her dress and shoes also.
Effie stared and bit her lips, but kept still until
out of the box came a little white fur coat and
boots, a wreath of holly leaves and berries, and
a candle with a frill of gold paper round it.
A long "Oh!" escaped her then; and when she
was dressed and saw herself in the glass, she
started back, exclaiming, "Why, Nursey, I look
like the spirit in my dream!"
"So you do; and that's the part you are to
play, my pretty! Now whist, while I blind your
eyes and put you in your place."
"Shall I be afraid?" whispered Effie, full of
wonder; for as they went out she heard the
sound of many voices, the tramp of many feet,
and, in spite of the bandage, was sure a great
light shone upon her when she stopped.
"You need n't be; I shall stand close by, and
your ma will be there."
After the handkerchief was tied about her
eyes, Nurse led Effie up some steps, and placed
her on a high platform, where something like
leaves touched her head, and the soft snap of
lamps seemed to fill the air.
Music began as soon as Nurse clapped her
hands, the voices outside sounded nearer, and
the tramp was evidently coming up the stairs.
"Now, my precious, look and see how you
and your dear ma have made a merry Christmas
for them that needed it!"
Off went the bandage; and for a minute Effie
really did think she was asleep again, for she
actually stood in "a grove of Christmas trees,"
all gay and shining as in her vision. Twelve on
a side, in two rows down the room, stood the
little pines, each on its low table; and behind
Effie a taller one rose to the roof, hung with
wreaths of popcorn, apples, oranges, horns of
candy, and cakes of all sorts, from sugary hearts
to gingerbread Jumbos. On the smaller trees
she saw many of her own discarded toys and
those Nursey bought, as well as heaps that
seemed to have rained down straight from that
delightful Christmas country where she felt as
if she was again.
"How splendid! Who is it for? What is
that noise? Where is mamma?" cried Effie,
pale with pleasure and surprise, as she stood
looking down the brilliant little street from her
Before Nurse could answer, the doors at the
lower end flew open, and in marched twenty-four
little blue-gowned orphan girls, singing
sweetly, until amazement changed the song to
cries of joy and wonder as the shining spectacle
appeared. While they stood staring with round
eyes at the wilderness of pretty things about
them, mamma stepped up beside Effie, and
holding her hand fast to give her courage, told
the story of the dream in a few simple words,
ending in this way:--
"So my little girl wanted to be a Christmas
spirit too, and make this a happy day for those
who had not as many pleasures and comforts as
she has. She likes surprises, and we planned
this for you all. She shall play the good fairy,
and give each of you something from this tree,
after which every one will find her own name
on a small tree, and can go to enjoy it in her
own way. March by, my dears, and let us fill
Nobody told them to do it, but all the hands
were clapped heartily before a single child
stirred; then one by one they came to look up
wonderingly at the pretty giver of the feast as
she leaned down to offer them great yellow
oranges, red apples, bunches of grapes, bonbons,
and cakes, till all were gone, and a double row
of smiling faces turned toward her as the children
filed back to their places in the orderly way
they had been taught.
Then each was led to her own tree by the
good ladies who had helped mamma with all their
hearts; and the happy hubbub that arose would
have satisfied even Santa Claus himself,--shrieks
of joy, dances of delight, laughter and tears
(for some tender little things could not bear so
much pleasure at once, and sobbed with mouths
full of candy and hands full of toys). How they
ran to show one another the new treasures! how
they peeped and tasted, pulled and pinched,
until the air was full of queer noises, the floor
covered with papers, and the little trees left bare
of all but candles!
"I don't think heaven can be any gooder than
this," sighed one small girl, as she looked about
her in a blissful maze, holding her full apron
with one hand, while she luxuriously carried
sugar-plums to her mouth with the other.
"Is that a truly angel up there?" asked another,
fascinated by the little white figure with
the wreath on its shining hair, who in some
mysterious way had been the cause of all this
"I wish I dared to go and kiss her for this
splendid party," said a lame child, leaning on
her crutch, as she stood near the steps,
wondering how it seemed to sit in a mother's lap, as
Effie was doing, while she watched the happy
scene before her.
Effie heard her, and remembering Tiny Tim,
ran down and put her arms about the pale child,
kissing the wistful face, as she said sweetly,
"You may; but mamma deserves the thanks.
She did it all; I only dreamed about it."
Lame Katy felt as if "a truly angel" was
embracing her, and could only stammer out her
thanks, while the other children ran to see the
pretty spirit, and touch her soft dress, until she
stood in a crowd of blue gowns laughing as they
held up their gifts for her to see and admire.
Mamma leaned down and whispered one word
to the older girls; and suddenly they all took
hands to dance round Effie, singing as they
It was a pretty sight, and the ladies found
it hard to break up the happy revel; but it was
late for small people, and too much fun is a
mistake. So the girls fell into line, and marched
before Effie and mamma again, to say good-night
with such grateful little faces that the
eyes of those who looked grew dim with tears.
Mamma kissed every one; and many a hungry
childish heart felt as if the touch of those tender
lips was their best gift. Effie shook so many
small hands that her own tingled; and when
Katy came she pressed a small doll into Effie's
hand, whispering, "You did n't have a single
present, and we had lots. Do keep that; it's
the prettiest thing I got."
"I will," answered Effie, and held it fast until
the last smiling face was gone, the surprise all
over, and she safe in her own bed, too tired and
happy for anything but sleep.
"Mamma, it was a beautiful surprise, and
I thank you so much! I don't see how you did
it; but I like it best of all the Christmases I ever
had, and mean to make one every year. I had
my splendid big present, and here is the dear
little one to keep for love of poor Katy; so even
that part of my wish came true."
And Effie fell asleep with a happy smile on
her lips, her one humble gift still in her hand,
and a new love for Christmas in her heart that
never changed through a long life spent in doing