The Carols of
Frederick Hall, in
Christian Endeavor World
There might have been no church had not the Rev. James McKenzie come just
when it seemed tottering to a fall. There might have been no Sunday-school
had not Harold Thornton tended it as carefully as he tended his own
orchard. There might have been no class number four had it not been for
Gertrude Windsor. But there would have been no glad tidings in one wintry
heart save for the voices with which Eddie and the two Willies and Charlie
and little Phil sang the carols that morning in the snow; and they came
straight from Him who gave the angels the songs of, "On earth peace, good
will to men."
At the end of the winter term in Gertrude's junior year the doctor had
prescribed a year of rest for her, and she had come to find it with Aunt
Mehitable, in the quiet of Bethlehem Center.
On her first Sunday she attended the little Sunday-school, and at the close
of service there was an official conference.
"She would be just the one if she would," said the pastor.
"It can't go on as it is," answered the superintendent. "The deacon means
well, but he doesn't know boys. There wasn't one here today, and only Eddie
last Sunday. I wish she'd be chorister, too," he added. "Did you hear her
"I doubt if she would do that. I am told she nearly broke down in college,
and is here to rest."
"Yes, so Mr. Thompson told me. But we do need her."
"Well, I will call on her, and let you know what I learn."
Gertrude hesitated; for had not the doctor said "It is not so much college,
Miss Windsor; it is church and Sunday-school and Christian Endeavor and
Student Volunteer, and all the rest on top of college work that is breaking
you down, and you must stop it"?
But the wistful face of Harry, who brought their milk, decided her; and the
second Sunday saw her instructing Eddie and little Phil in the quarterly
temperance lesson. It was not until school was over that she learned the
reason of little Phil's conscious silence; and next day, when she met him
with his father on the street, she tried to atone for her former ignorance.
"Are you Phil's father?" she asked, stepping toward them.
Tim Shartow, who was believed by some to regard neither God, man, nor the
devil, grew strangely embarrassed as he took her hand, after a hurried
inspection of his own.
"Yes'm," he answered.
"I am to be his Sunday-school teacher," she went on; "and of course I want
to know the fathers and mothers of my boys. I hope Phil can come regularly.
We are going to have some very interesting lessons."
"I guess he can come," answered his father. "It's a better place for him
than on the street, anyway."
This was faint praise, but well meant. Gertrude smiled her appreciation,
and in that brief meeting won not only Phil's lifelong regard, but, had she
known it, that of his father as well; for thenceforth Tim Shartow felt that
he had two friends in Bethlehem Center of whom he need not be ashamed.
His other friend was the Rev. James McKenzie. The mutual though qualified
respect which they felt for each other dated from their first meeting, when
Mr. McKenzie had walked into the saloon and asked permission to tack up
some bills advertising his revival services.
"I guess you can," the proprietor had answered, standing alertly on his
The bills had been posted, and the unwonted visitor turned to the man
behind the bar. They were alone together.
"We should be very glad, Mr. Shartow," he said, "if you would attend some
of the meetings."
"It'll be a cold day when I do," answered the saloon-keeper.
Mr. McKenzie did not reply.
"The worst enemies I've got are in that church," added Tim, by way of
A smile lighted up the pastor's earnest face. "No, Mr. Shartow," he said,
"you're wrong. They don't like your business,—I don't like your
business,—but you haven't an enemy in our church. And I want to tell you
now"—his foot was upon the bar rail, and he was looking straight into the
eyes of the man to whom he spoke—"that every night, as I pray that God
will remove this saloon, I shall pray that he will bring you to know my
Saviour. And if ever you need help that I can give, I want you to feel free
to come to me. We are traveling different roads, Mr. Shartow, but we are
not enemies; we are friends."
And the pastor departed, leaving Tim, the saloonkeeper, "that shook up," to
use his own phrase, that it is doubtful whether he ever entirely regained
his former attitude toward "them church folks."
By Gertrude's second Sunday as teacher, the two Willies had come to test
the truth of rumors that had reached them. Charlie and Harry came next,
and, after Gertrude announced the mid-week class-meetings as a reward for
full attendance, not one absence occurred for thirteen weeks.
To Harold Thornton it had the look of a miracle that the class for whom no
teacher could be found was as clay in the hands of the potter. There was
nothing Gertrude could not do with them. They listened spellbound while she
talked, took part in the responsive readings, answered questions, studied
their lessons, sat wherever the superintendent wished; they even pocketed
their papers without a glance at them until the session was over. And they
sang with a wild abandon that was exhilarating to hear. Even Harry, who
held throughout the note on which his voice first fastened, never failed to
sing; and, though it added little to the harmony, it spoke volumes for the
spirit of the school and the devotion to the chorister.
But if Gertrude was doing much for the boys, they were doing much for
Gertrude; and in obeying her orders to rest, exercise, and grow strong, she
could not have had better helpers. From the time when the first pale
blossoms of the bloodroot showed beside the snow, through the seasons of
violets and wild strawberries and goldenrod, to the time when the frost had
spread the ground with the split shucks of the hickory-nuts, the spoil of
all the woodland was brought to her.
Their class-meetings became long tramps, during which Gertrude told them
interesting things about insects, birds, and flowers, and they told as much
that was strange to her. Every one of them had become a conspirator in the
plot to keep her out of doors, away from her books; hardly a day passed
that she did not go somewhere with one or more of them. And as the healthy
color began to show beneath the tan, as strength came back, and every pulse
beat brought the returning joy of life, she often felt that all her work
for class number four had been repaid a hundredfold.
It was one mid-August afternoon, when the tasseled corn stood high, and the
thistles had begun to take wing and fly away to join the dandelions, that
there came the first thoughts of the carols. Harry had to drive cows that
day; but the others were with her, and as they came out through Mr.
Giertz's woods, and looked down upon the pasture where the sheep were
feeding, little Phil began the quaint old version of the shepherd psalm
that she had taught them,—
"The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want;
He maketh me down to lie,"—
and, the other boys joining, they sang through to the end.
It was beautiful. She had never realized that they could sing so well, and,
suddenly, as she listened, the plan came full-grown into her mind, and she
proposed it then and there. The boys were jubilant; for a half-hour they
discussed details; and then, "all seated on the ground," like those of whom
they sang, she taught them the beginning of, "While shepherds watched their
flocks by night."
That was the first of many open-air rehearsals, transferred, when the
weather grew colder, to Willie Giertz's, where there were no near neighbors
to whom the portentous secret might leak out. There was not one defective
voice in the class save Harry's, and he was at first a puzzle; but that
difficulty vanished when it was learned that his fondest ambition was
satisfied by striking the tuning-fork. Thereafter all went smoothly, with
much enthusiasm and a world of mystery.
When the program was complete, they had by heart six songs: "While
shepherds watched their flocks by night," "Away in a manger," "We three
kings of Orient are," "Hark! the herald angels sing," "There came three
kings ere break of day," and last, but best, because it seemed especially
made for them, the song that began:—
"O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by."
And so at length came Christmas eve. Little eyes were closing tight in
determined efforts to force the sleep that would make the time till morning
so much shorter. But in Bethlehem Center were six boys who, it is safe to
say, were thinking less of the morrow's gifts than of the morning's plan;
for preparations for early rising had been as elaborate as if it were
fourth of July, and there was a solemn agreement that not one present
should be looked at until after their return.
Gertrude had fallen asleep thinking of the letter beneath her pillow,
promising her return to college at the beginning of next term; but at the
first tinkle of her alarm-clock she was up, and, dressing by candlelight,
went softly down the stairs and out into the keen air of the morning. The
stars were still bright overhead, and there was no light in the east; but
Gertrude Windsor was not the first abroad; for at the gate Eddie, the two
Willies, and little Phil stood waiting, and already Harry and Charlie were
seen coming at top speed.
"Are we all here?" asked Eddie in a stage whisper; and the other boys
huddled close together, and wriggled with suppressed excitement.
"Yes," answered Gertrude. "Which place is first?"
"Mr. McKenzie's," announced Charlie, whose part it was to lay out the
route; and, crossing the road, they passed through the parsonage gate.
Beneath the study windows, Harry, at a given signal, struck the tuning-fork
against his boot heel, Gertrude gave the key, and then, like one, there
rose to greet the dawning of another Christmas day those clear young
"Hark! the herald angels sing,
'Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.'"
There were sounds from within before they had finished the first stanza;
but when, after the "Amen," the pastor started to open a window, the boys
were too quick for him. There was a volley of "Merry Christmas," and his
answer reached only the rearguard tumbling over the picket fence.
Beneath the bare apple-tree boughs in Harold Thornton's yard, Charlie,
Eddie, and little Phil sang, "We three kings of Orient are," while the
others joined in the chorus. At the song's close, the superintendent,
swifter of foot than the pastor, overtook them with a great box of candy.
Tears came into the eyes of Mrs. Martin as, watching beside her sick child,
she heard again the story of the Babe "away in a manger, no crib for his
bed." Old Uncle King forgot for a moment his vexing troubles as he listened
to the admonition to "rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing."
Mrs. Fenny cried, as sick people will, when she heard the boys reiterate
the sweet, triumphant notes.
So from house to house the singers went, pausing at one because of
sickness, at another because those within were lonely, at some for love, as
they had serenaded the pastor and the superintendent, and bringing to each
some new joy.
The stars were fading out, and they had started to return. On their side of
the street was the post-office, and opposite them was the saloon, with its
gaudy gilt sign, "Tim's Place." Little Phil was behind Gertrude; and as
they passed that building,—it was home to him—his hand just touched her
"Do you think," he whispered, and she could see the pitiful quiver of his
chin as he spoke—"do you suppose—we could sing one for m' father?"
Tears filled Gertrude's eyes; and had she not known boys so well, she would
have stooped and caught him in her arms.
"Why, surely," she answered. "Which one do you think he would like best?"
Phil had shrunk behind her, and beneath the gaze of the other boys his eyes
were those of a little hunted animal at bay. "Bethlehem," he said, huskily.
And when Harry had struck the tuning-fork, they began to sing together,—
"O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by."
The twenty-fourth had been a good day for business in Tim Shartow's place.
He had had venison for free lunch; two mandolin and guitar players had been
there all the evening; and there was more than two hundred dollars in the
till. But now, in the quiet of the early morning, as he sat alone, the
reaction had come. He remembered how Rob MacFlynn had had too much, and
gone home maudlin to the wife who had toiled all day at the wash-tub. He
thought of the fight Joe Frier and Tom Stacey had had. And—he did not
drink much himself; he despised a drunkard—and these things disgusted him.
There was little Phil, too,—"the saloon-keeper's boy,"—and that cut deep.
Wouldn't it pay better, in the long run—and then the music floated softly
He did not hear the words at first, but he had a good ear,—it was the
singing that had brought him, as a boy, into the beer-gardens,—and,
stepping to the window, he listened, all unseen by those without. There the
words reached him:—
"How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him"—
and until they sang the "Amen," Tim Shartow never stirred from the window.
* * * * *
The storm that had been threatening all day had descended. Without, a
blizzard was raging; but within, beside his study fire, the little ones
tucked away in bed up-stairs, and a book in his hand, the Reverend McKenzie
could laugh at weather. A knock at that hour surprised him; but when he saw
who stood upon the threshold, he knew how the saloon-keeper felt when he
posted his bills so many months before.
"Good evening, Mr. Shartow," he said. "Won't you come in?"
The face of his visitor was tense and haggard; for the struggle had lasted
the day long.
"I've come for help," he answered, shortly. "I guess it's the kind you can
give, all right."
For a moment the pastor searched his face. "God bless you!" he exclaimed.
"Come in, come in."
And so was wrought again, before the close of the day that had been ushered
in by the singing of the carols, the ever new miracle of Christmas; for
God's gift to men had been again accepted, and into another heart made meek
and ready to receive him the dear Christ had entered.—Frederick Hall, in
Christian Endeavor World.