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The Christmas Goose At The Cratchits'






CHARLES DICKENS

You might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered
phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course; and in truth,
it was something like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy
(ready before-hand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter
mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor; Miss Belinda sweetened up the
apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him
in a tiny corner, at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for
everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their
posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for
goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set
on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs.
Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge
it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long-expected gush of
stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all around the board,
and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table
with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried hurrah!

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was
such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were
the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the apple-sauce and
mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family;
indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small
atom of a bone on the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every
one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were
steeped in sage and onion to the eye-brows! But now, the plates being
changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone--too nervous
to bear witnesses--to take the pudding up, and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning
out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the backyard, and
stolen it, while they were merry with the goose; a supposition at which
the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were
supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell
like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and
a pastry cook's next door to each other, with a laundress next door to
that! That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered,
flushed, but smiling proudly, with the pudding like a speckled
cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of
ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he
regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since
their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind,
she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour.
Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for so large a family. It would have been
flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a
thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth
swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted and
considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a
shovelful of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew
round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a
one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass--two
tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden
goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while
the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob
proposed:

A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!

Which all the family re-echoed.

God bless us every one! said Tiny Tim, the last of all.



GOD BLESS US EVERY ONE

JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

[From Sketches in Prose.]

God bless us every one! prayed Tiny Tim,
Crippled, and dwarfed of body, yet so tall
Of soul, we tiptoe earth to look on him,
High towering over all.

He loved the loveless world, nor dreamed, indeed,
That it, at best, could give to him, the while,
But pitying glances, when his only need
Was but a cheery smile.

And thus he prayed, God bless us every one!
Enfolding all the creeds within the span
Of his child-heart; and so, despising none,
Was nearer saint than man.

I like to fancy God, in Paradise,
Lifting a finger o'er the rhythmic swing
Of chiming harp and song, with eager eyes
Turned earthward, listening--

The Anthem stilled--the angels leaning there
Above the golden walls--the morning sun
Of Christmas bursting flower-like with the prayer,
God bless us Every One!





Next: Bells Across The Snows

Previous: The Knighting Of The Sirloin Of Beef By Charles The Second



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