The New year's Errand, from the Harper's
"What are those children doing?" asked the clergyman of his wife a few
days after Christmas.
WHAT BECAME OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE.—Drawn by C. S. Reinhart.
"I really can not tell you, James," was the reply, as his wife peered
anxiously over his shoulder, and out of the window. "All that I know
about it is this: I was busy in the pantry, when Rob put his head in,
and asked if he could have the Christmas tree, as nearly everything had
been taken off of it; so I said 'Yes,' and there he goes with it, sure
enough. I do hope the wax from the candles has not spotted the parlor
"Don't be anxious, wife; 'Christmas comes but once a year, and when it
comes should bring good cheer.'"
"Yes," said the careful housewife, "I suppose I do worry. But there! it
is snowing again, and Bertha perched up on that tree on Rob's sled, and
she so subject to croup!"
"The more she is out in the pure air, the less likely she is to take
cold; but where are they going?"
"I really do not know, James. Did you ever see a dog more devoted to any
one than Jip is to Rob? There he goes, dancing beside him now; and I see
Rob has tied on the scarf Bertha knit for him; that is done to please
her. She did work so hard to get it finished in time before he came home
for the holidays."
"She is very like her own dear little mother in kindness and care for
others," was the reply.
The mother gave a bright smile and a kiss for the compliment, but a
little wail from the nursery hurried her out of the room.
Christmas at the parsonage had been delightful, for, first of all, Rob's
return from boarding-school was a pleasurable event; he always came home
in such good spirits, was so full of his jokes and nonsense, and had so
many funny things to tell about the boys. Then there was the dressing of
the church with evergreens, and the decoration of the parlor with
wreaths of holly or running pine, and the spicy smell of all the
delicacies which were in course of preparation, for Sally was a famous
cook, and would brook no interference when mince-pies and plum-pudding
were to be concocted.
But the children thought the arrival of a certain box, which was always
dispatched from town, the very best of all the Christmas delights. This
box came from their rich aunts and uncles, who seemed to think that the
little parsonage must be a dreary place in winter, and so, to make up to
its inmates for losing all the brightness of a city winter, they sent
everything they could think of in the way of beautiful pictures,
gorgeous books, games, sugar-plums, and enough little glittering things
for two or three trees. Of course the clergyman always laid aside some
of these things for other occasions, lest the children should be
And so Christmas had passed happily, as usual. The school-children had
sung their carols and enjoyed their feast, the poor had been carefully
looked after and made comfortable, and there had come the usual lull
after a season of excitement. It was now the day before the first of the
new year, and the parson was writing a sermon. He was telling people
what a good time it was to try and turn over a new leaf; to be nobler,
truer, braver, than they had ever been before; to let the old year carry
away with it all selfishness, all anger, envy, and unloving thoughts;
and as he wrote, he looked out of the window at the falling snow, and
wondered where Bob and Bertha could have gone.
Dinner-time came. Aunt Ellen, mamma, and the parson sat down alone.
"Where are those children?" repeated mamma.
"I do not think you need be worried, Kate," said Aunt Ellen. "Rob is so
thoughtful, he will take good care of Bertha. They have perhaps stopped
in at a neighbor's, and been coaxed to stay."
"Very likely," said the parson. And then the baby came in, crowing and
chuckling, and claiming his privileges, such as sitting in a high chair
and feeding the cat, and mamma had enough to do to keep the merry fellow
in order, or his fat little hands would have grasped all the silver, and
pulled over the glasses.
After dinner, while the parson let the baby twist his whiskers or creep
about his knees, mamma played some lovely German music, and Aunt Ellen
crocheted. The short afternoon grew dusky. Baby went off to the nursery;
the parson had lighted his cigar, and was going out for a walk, but
mamma looked so anxious that he said,
"I will go look for the children, Kate."
"Really, I think you will have to give Rob a little scolding, my dear.
He should have told us where he was going."
"Yes, I suppose so," said the parson; when just then there was a gleeful
cry—a merry chorus made up of Rob's, Bertha's, and Jip's voices, and
there they were, Bertha on the sled, and Rob was her horse.
"Where have you been, my son?" said the parson, trying to be severe.
"You should not have gone off in this manner for the whole day without
Rob's bright smile faded a little; but Bertha said, quickly, "Please,
papa, don't scold Rob. If you only knew—"
"Hush, Bertha!" said Rob; and red as his cheeks were, they grew redder.
"I am sorry you are offended, sir. I did not mean to be so long. We were
"What detained you?"
"And where did you get your dinner?" asked mamma.
"Oh, we had plenty to eat."
"But you don't intend us to know where you got it?"
"No, sir," said Rob, frankly.
"Now, papa, you shall not scold Rob," said Bertha, putting her hand in
his. "Come into your study. Go away, Rob; go give Jip his supper. Come,
mamma;" and Bertha dragged them both in to the fire, where, with
sparkling eyes and cheeks like carnation, she began to talk: "Mamma, you
remember that scrimmage Rob got into with the village boys last Fourth
of July, and how hatefully they knocked him down, and how bruised his
eye was for a long time?"
"Yes, I remember, and I always blamed Rob. He should never have had
anything to do with those rowdies."
"I didn't blame him; I never blame Rob for anything, except when he
won't do what I want him to do. Well, the worst one of all those horrid
boys is Sim Jenkins—at least he was; I don't think he's quite so bad
now. But he has been punished for all his badness, for he hurt his leg
awfully, and has been laid up for months—so his mother says; and she is
quite nice. She gave us our dinner to-day. Somehow or other, Rob heard
that Sim was in bed, and had not had any Christmas things, and that his
mother was poor; and she says all her money has gone for doctor's bills
and medicine. And so it just came into his head that perhaps it would do
Sim good to have a Christmas-tree on New-Year's Day; and he asked Mrs.
Jenkins, and she was afraid it would make a muss, but Rob said he would
be careful. And so he carried our tree over, and fixed it in a box, and
covered the box with moss, and we have been as busy as bees trying to
make it look pretty. And that is what has kept us so long, for Rob had
to run down to the store and get things—nails and ribbons, and I don't
know what all. And Sim is not to know anything about the tree until
to-morrow. And please give us some of the pretty things which were in
our box, for we could not get quite enough to fill all the branches. Rob
spent so much of his pocket-money on a knife for Sim that he had none
left for candy; for he said the tree would not give Sim so much pleasure
unless there was something on it which he could always keep."
Here little Bertha stopped for want of breath, and looked into the faces
of her listeners.
The parson put his arm around her as he said, "I hardly think we can
scold Rob now, after special pleading so eloquent as this; what do you
"I say that Rob is just like his father in doing this kindly deed, and I
am glad to be the mother of a boy who can return good for evil."
The parson made a bow. "Now we are even, madam, in the matter of
So Sim Jenkins woke up on New-Year's Day to see from his weary bed a
vision of brightness—a little tree laden with its fruit of kindness,
its flowers of a forgiving spirit; and as the parson preached his
New-Year's sermon, and saw Rob's dark eyes looking up at him, he thought
of the verse,
"In their young hearts, soft and tender,
Guide my hand good seed to sow,
That its blossoming may praise Thee
Wheresoe'er they go."