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A Story Of The Christ-child

A German legend for Christmas Eve as told by


ONCE upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas,
a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great
city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers, sisters
and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired grandfathers and
grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with bundles of presents
for each other and for their little ones. Fine carriages rolled by,
express wagons rattled past, even old carts were pressed into service,
and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with expectation of the coming
Christmas morning.

From some of the windows bright lights were already beginning to stream
until it was almost as bright as day. But the little child seemed to
have no home, and wandered about listlessly from street to street. No
one took any notice of him except perhaps Jack Frost, who bit his bare
toes and made the ends of his fingers tingle. The north wind, too,
seemed to notice the child, for it blew against him and pierced his
ragged garments through and through, causing him to shiver with cold.
Home after home he passed, looking with longing eyes through the
windows, in upon the glad, happy children, most of whom were helping to
trim the Christmas trees for the coming morrow.

"Surely," said the child to himself, "where there is so much gladness
and happiness, some of it may be for me." So with timid steps he
approached a large and handsome house. Through the windows, he could see
a tall and stately Christmas tree already lighted. Many presents hung
upon it. Its green boughs were trimmed with gold and silver ornaments.
Slowly he climbed up the broad steps and gently rapped at the door. It
was opened by a large man-servant. He had a kindly face, although his
voice was deep and gruff. He looked at the little child for a moment,
then sadly shook his head and said, "Go down off the steps. There is no
room here for such as you." He looked sorry as he spoke; possibly he
remembered his own little ones at home, and was glad that they were not
out in this cold and bitter night. Through the open door a bright light
shone, and the warm air, filled with fragrance of the Christmas pine,
rushed out from the inner room and greeted the little wanderer with a
kiss. As the child turned back into the cold and darkness, he wondered
why the footman had spoken thus, for surely, thought he, those little
children would love to have another companion join them in their joyous
Christmas festival. But the little children inside did not even know
that he had knocked at the door.

The street grew colder and darker as the child passed on. He went sadly
forward, saying to himself, "Is there no one in all this great city who
will share the Christmas with me?" Farther and farther down the street
he wandered, to where the homes were not so large and beautiful. There
seemed to be little children inside of nearly all the houses. They were
dancing and frolicking about. Christmas trees could be seen in nearly
every window, with beautiful dolls and trumpets and picture-books and
balls and tops and other dainty toys hung upon them. In one window the
child noticed a little lamb made of soft white wool. Around its neck was
tied a red ribbon. It had evidently been hung on the tree for one of the
children. The little stranger stopped before this window and looked long
and earnestly at the beautiful things inside, but most of all was he
drawn toward the white lamb. At last creeping up to the window-pane, he
gently tapped upon it. A little girl came to the window and looked out
into the dark street where the snow had now begun to fall. She saw the
child, but she only frowned and shook her head and said, "Go away and
come some other time. We are too busy to take care of you now." Back
into the dark, cold streets he turned again. The wind was whirling past
him and seemed to say, "Hurry on, hurry on, we have no time to stop.
'Tis Christmas Eve and everybody is in a hurry to-night."

Again and again the little child rapped softly at door or window-pane.
At each place he was refused admission. One mother feared he might have
some ugly disease which her darlings would catch; another father said he
had only enough for his own children and none to spare for beggars.
Still another told him to go home where he belonged, and not to trouble
other folks.

The hours passed; later grew the night, and colder grew the wind, and
darker seemed the street. Farther and farther the little one wandered.
There was scarcely any one left upon the street by this time, and the
few who remained did not seem to see the child, when suddenly ahead of
him there appeared a bright, single ray of light. It shone through the
darkness into the child's eyes. He looked up smilingly and said, "I will
go where the small light beckons, perhaps they will share their
Christmas with me."

Hurrying past all the other houses, he soon reached the end of the
street and went straight up to the window from which the light was
streaming. It was a poor, little, low house, but the child cared not for
that. The light seemed still to call him in. From what do you suppose
the light came? Nothing but a tallow candle which had been placed in an
old cup with a broken handle, in the window, as a glad token of
Christmas Eve. There was neither curtain nor shade to the small, square
window and as the little child looked in he saw standing upon a neat
wooden table a branch of a Christmas tree. The room was plainly
furnished, but it was very clean. Near the fireplace sat a lovely faced
mother with a little two-year-old on her knee and an older child beside
her. The two children were looking into their mother's face and
listening to a story. She must have been telling them a Christmas story,
I think. A few bright coals were burning in the fireplace, and all

seemed light and warm within.

The little wanderer crept closer and closer to the window-pane. So sweet
was the mother's face, so loving seemed the little children, that at
last he took courage and tapped gently, very gently on the door. The
mother stopped talking, the little children looked up. "What was that,
mother?" asked the little girl at her side. "I think it was some one
tapping on the door," replied the mother. "Run as quickly as you can and
open it, dear, for it is a bitter cold night to keep any one waiting in
this storm." "Oh, mother, I think it was the bough of the tree tapping
against the window-pane," said the little girl. "Do please go on with
our story." Again the little wanderer tapped upon the door. "My child,
my child," exclaimed the mother, rising, "that certainly was a rap on
the door. Run quickly and open it. No one must be left out in the cold
on our beautiful Christmas Eve."

The child ran to the door and threw it wide open. The mother saw the
ragged stranger standing without, cold and shivering, with bare head and
almost bare feet. She held out both hands and drew him into the warm,
bright room. "You poor, dear child," was all she said, and putting her
arms around him, she drew him close to her breast. "He is very cold, my
children," she exclaimed. "We must warm him." "And," added the little
girl, "we must love him and give him some of our Christmas, too." "Yes,"
said the mother, "but first let us warm him."

The mother sat down by the fire with the little child on her lap, and
her own little ones warmed his half-frozen hands in theirs. The mother
smoothed his tangled curls, and, bending low over his head, kissed the
child's face. She gathered the three little ones in her arms and the
candle and the fire light shone over them. For a moment the room was
very still. By and by the little girl said softly, to her mother, "May
we not light the Christmas tree, and let him see how beautiful it
looks?" "Yes," said the mother. With that she seated the child on a low
stool beside the fire, and went herself to fetch the few simple
ornaments which from year to year she had saved for her children's
Christmas tree. They were soon so busy that they did not notice the room
had filled with a strange and brilliant light. They turned and looked at
the spot where the little wanderer sat. His ragged clothes had changed
to garments white and beautiful; his tangled curls seemed like a halo of
golden light about his head; but most glorious of all was his face,
which shone with a light so dazzling that they could scarcely look upon

In silent wonder they gazed at the child. Their little room seemed to
grow larger and larger, until it was as wide as the whole world, the
roof of their low house seemed to expand and rise, until it reached to
the sky.

With a sweet and gentle smile the wonderful child looked upon them for a
moment, and then slowly rose and floated through the air, above the
treetops, beyond the church spire, higher even than the clouds
themselves, until he appeared to them to be a shining star in the sky
above. At last he disappeared from sight. The astonished children turned
in hushed awe to their mother, and said in a whisper, "Oh, mother, it
was the Christ-Child, was it not?" And the mother answered in a low
tone, "Yes."

And it is said, dear children, that each Christmas Eve the little
Christ-Child wanders through some town or village, and those who receive
him and take him into their homes and hearts have given to them this
marvellous vision which is denied to others.

Next: Jimmy Scarecrow's Christmas

Previous: The Voyage Of The Wee Red Cap

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